JERUSALEM (Dec. 6)
Four persons were killed and 46 were injured, many seriously, when a bomb exploded in a crowded Jerusalem bus this afternoon, virtually demolishing the vehicle. The casualty figures were released at 4 p.m. local time, about three hours after the explosion. The toll could go higher. The dead were not immediately identified.
Premier Yitzhak Shamir vowed tonight that the perpetrators “will not go unpunished.” A statement released by his office said security forces were “making every possible effort to uncover the perpetrators of this criminal act. They shall not go unpunished.”
The Palestine Liberation Organization claimed credit for the outrage. Its Cyprus-based news agency, Wafa, quoted a Palestinian military spokesman today as saying that a unit of the “Martyr Halim” commando group was responsible for the bus bombing. The PLO claimed it was an army bus and that 40 Israeli military personnel were killed.
The bus, a No. 18 which follows a circuitous route around the city, was blasted into the air by the explosion while waiting at a stop light on Herzl Boulevard at 12:50 p.m. local time. Another bus, immediately behind it, was also damaged by the explosion and a number of its passengers sustained injuries.
WORST TERRORIST ATTACK IN TWO YEARS
The injured were rushed to the nearest hospitals–Shaare Zedek and the Ein Kerem facility of Hadassah Hospital. Many were reported badly burned or bleeding profusely. At least one victim was in critical condition.
Jerusalem Police Chief Rahamim Comfort announced that several suspects have been arrested for questioning in what was easily the worst terrorist attack anywhere in Israel for at least the last two years. He said a mass search was underway for the perpetrators.
The bus was enroute to the Kiryat Yovel section on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem and was packed with passengers, including school children and a large number of shoppers who had boarded the bus at the Mahane Yehuda marketplace.
‘I NEVER SAW SUCH A HORRIBLE SIGHT’
The bomb, believed to have been loaded with nails to cause maximum injury, exploded in the center of the bus. The roof was blown off by the force of the explosion, all windows were shattered and parts of the vehicle were strewn as far as 100 meters from the site of the explosion.
“I never saw such a horrible sight,” an eyewitness told reporters. “I saw body parts tens of meters away from the bus, a baby pacifier stained with blood, torn school books, make-up kits and a blood-stained chocolate bar.”
Extrication of the dead and injured from the ruined vehicle was hampered by hundreds of curious by standers who converged on the scene. Many refused to heed repeated appeals by the police to allow security forces to work unimpeded.
Transportation Minister Haim Corfu went on radio and television later in the day to urge bus passengers to be constantly on the alert for any suspicious-looking objects. “Public sensitivity to suspicious objects has faded and should be strengthened,” he said.
Buses in Jerusalem and other Israeli cities have been frequent targets of terrorist bomb plants over the years. In most cases, the bus driver or alert passengers spotted the objects and the vehicles were evacuated before the bomb detonated.
Sometimes a bomb would explode, damaging an empty vehicle and on other occasions the lethal objects were defused by police sappers. But no previous bus bombs appear to have been of the size and power of the one which caused today’s tragedy.