At Least 7 Killed as Muslim Terrorists Bomb Jerusalem Campus


August 1, 2002 New York Times

JERUSALEM, July 31 - A powerful bomb hidden in a bag and left on a table by Palestinian terrorists tore apart a bustling cafeteria during lunch at Hebrew University here today, killing seven people, including at least three Americans, and wounding more than 80.

Through a bedlam of screams and crashing glass, students fled in horror from the cafeteria, in the Frank Sinatra Student Center, some trailing blood onto the concrete courtyard of Nancy Reagan Plaza.

Because of the campus' diverse student body - it is one of the few enclaves here where Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs still mix - students said they had felt safe, even as new violence threatened the city this week. Arab students were among the wounded, hospital officials said, as were foreign students.

In Washington, the State Department reported the deaths of the three Americans, two women and one man. One victim, Janis Ruth Coulter of New York City, was identified tonight by the American Friends of Hebrew University.

The State Department declined to identify the American victims further as consular officials worked to notify relatives.

An administration official said there might be more Americans among the dead. He gave no further details, except to say that the identification process was continuing. The Israeli consul in Boston, Hillel Newman, told The Boston Globe last night that four Americans had been killed in the attack.

Philip Reeker, a department spokesman, called the attack "absolutely tragic and outrageous."

President Bush condemned the bombing and said it was perpetrated by "killers who hate the thought of peace and therefore are willing to take their hatred to all kinds of places, including a university."

The bombing at the campus, on Mount Scopus, was the second in two days in Jerusalem. The Islamist group Hamas claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying that it acted in retaliation for Israel's killing last week of a top Hamas leader. Fourteen others, including nine children, died in that attack, in which Israel bombed a house in Gaza City.

Spencer Dew, 26, a divinity student from the University of Chicago studying here for the summer, was eating on the patio when he heard the blast, then smelled gunpowder. Lacerated by flying glass, he joined the fleeing crowd, then returned for a notebook, which had also been pierced by glass.

"I know there are justifications - bad justifications," he said of the political violence, his shirt spotted crimson and his khaki pants torn as he left a hospital here. "It's killing college students. That's no political solution for anything. It's killing college kids."

As emergency workers cleared the site, Abeer Salman, 19, a student from the Arab village of Beit Safafa, sat on the plaza steps, stunned.

"I was across the plaza," she said. "My friend wanted to get something to drink. After two minutes we heard a blast, and we can't find her."

The campus is fenced, and guards check the bags of those who enter. But some students complained that the security was porous. An investigation by a campus paper in January warned that a cafeteria would be an appealing, accessible target.

"The security tries to do their best," said Kobi Cohen, the student union president."But there are a lot of holes in the fence. A lot of guards don't check the bags well."
Mr. Cohen, who helped evacuate the wounded, said, "We always believed that because there are Arab students here and Arab workers, nobody will try to hurt us here."

The attack was unusual in that it appeared not to be the work of a suicide bomber. Police officials said initial investigation suggested that the bomb was hidden in a bag.

Israeli officials said the attack fit a Palestinian strategy of killing civilians. "This is a continuous effort by the Palestinians to kill as many Israelis as possible in order to sabotage the peace process," said Gideon Meir, a senior Foreign Ministry official. "It has nothing to do with what happened in Gaza City a week ago."

The Palestinian Authority, led by Yasir Arafat, issued a statement saying that it "absolutely condemns the attack against Hebrew University" but adding that it blamed Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, for provoking violence.

After back-to-back bombings killed 26 people here more than a month ago, Israel began a ground offensive in the West Bank to suppress Palestinian violence.

But Palestinian militants vowed retaliation after the bombing last week. After five people were injured in the suicide bombing here on Tuesday, Mr. Sharon met senior security advisers before today's attack to discuss ways of coping with suicide bombers, and the group endorsed the idea of deporting members of the killers' families. Tonight, Israeli military officials convened to consider possible retaliation.

Ron Krumer, a spokesman for the Hadassah Medical Center, where some of the wounded were taken, said the victims suffered "penetrating injuries, with lots of metal elements, such as bolts and screws and nails, all over their bodies."

The bomb sprayed blood across the ceiling tiles, tore apart wooden chairs and scattered the antique radios decorating the cafeteria. A large jar of pickled radishes sat unbroken on one counter, as an officer a few feet away used large tweezers to pick evidence out of a pool of blood.

Students jotted down lists of friends and frantically dialed their cellphones, checking off the names of those who responded. Others called home to say they were all right.

"I got delayed; I'm the luckiest man in the world," Allistaire Goldrein, 19, of Liverpool, England, told his worried father, calling from England. Mr. Goldrein said he ate in the cafeteria every day and was delayed today by another student.

"I was coming around the corner and suddenly there was this huge explosion," he said. "I can't describe it - huge. The very foundation of the stone structure was shaken."

Mr. Goldrein said he raced inside. "It was carnage in there," he said. "Carnage, anarchy. It was disgusting. I saw dead people. I saw people with no heads. There was a guy, I gave him mouth to mouth, but he was dead."

Just outside the campus this afternoon, the police detained scores of Arab men, including some who appeared to be students, keeping them standing in the sun for several hours as they searched for suspects.

Representatives of an anti-Palestinian faction arrived at the blast site and unfurled a banner declaring, "It's them or us" and "Expel the Arab enemy." Dror Lederman, 26, a student of economics and accounting, angrily accosted one man. "Get out of here," he said. "You come every time. You come to dance on the blood."

Students watched in shock as emergency workers carried their peers away on orange stretchers, through an area where graduation ceremonies are held. "I was standing in the Forum and watching them bring people on stretchers, and I saw blood and shoes and I.V.'s on the ground," said Sophia Aron, 19, of Los Angeles, a student from the University of California, Davis, who is studying here for a year. "Right in the Forum. It freaks me out. But I'm not leaving."

Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar, a political leader of Hamas, blamed Israel for the attack. "Such operations will continue until the elimination of the occupation," he said. Hamas leaders consider all of Israel to be occupied territory, not just the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied in 1967.

Shlomo Avineri, a political science professor at the university, said: "This is beyond the pale, to attack a university, and it shows what the war is about. It's not about the settlements. It's not about occupation. It's about the very existence of a Jewish population in this country."

Muslims have disproportionately high rates of antisocial behavior, conduct disorder and violence. Because these deadly incidents are hidden under the guise of religion, little has been done to address the deviance-amplifying nature of Islamic Jihadi teachings...

Dr. Babu Suseelan