JERUSALEM (Jul. 1)
Two Israeli women were killed in a terrorist attack on a crowded city bus here Thursday, in the most serious security incident in several months.
But a potentially far greater loss of life was averted,as a result of the bus driver’s resourcefulness.
Two of the three heavily armed Palestinian attackers were killed as they tried to flee the scene by car and break through a roadblock on their way to the West Bank. They had been chased off the bus by the driver and passengers.
One of the slain Israelis was a passenger shot on the bus. The other was a motorist forced at gunpoint to drive the fleeing terrorists away from the scene of the attack in her own car.
The motorist, Jeanette Kadosh, was killed along with the terrorists during a clash with soldiers at a roadblock set up near the southern exit from the city on the way to Bethlehem.
Israeli army officials claimed Kadosh, a 39-year-old mother of four, was shot first by gunfire from the Palestinians and then by Israeli border police. The army said it was unclear whose shooting caused her death.
The slain bus passenger, 42-year-old Ella Haikman, was seriously injured by a gunshot wound to her head and died later in the day from her wounds. The driver and a third terrorist were lightly wounded.
Israeli officials, as well as the Damascus-based Radio Al Kuds, said the attack was perpetrated by militants associated with the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement.
The attack coincided with reports that Palestinian negotiators in Washington were deeply disappointed with an American draft of proposals presented at the end of the 10th round of bilateral talks with Israel.
The incident began close to 7 a.m., when three Arab terrorists boarded the No. 25 bus on the Jerusalem-Nablus road, near the French Hill neighborhood and close to police national headquarters.
‘HE COULD HAVE BUTCHERED US ALL’
The last to get on the bus, which was crowded with 80 passengers, suddenly opened a bag he was carrying, pulled out a rifle and aimed it at the passengers.
The driver, Dudi Yom-Tov, stopped the bus, jumped out of his seat and scuffled with the gunman, trying to take hold of his M-16 rifle.
“I acted on instinct,” he later told journalists at his hospital bed. “He could have butchered us all.”
The attacker managed to fire a few shots, slightly wounding the driver in the upper leg, fatally shooting Haikman and also wounding one of his partners, a Gaza resident.
As passengers rushed to aid the bus driver, the attacker fled the scene along with one of his two partners, taking over at gunpoint the car driven by Kadosh, a draftsperson in an architect’s office who was on her way to work.
With Kadosh driving the car at gunpoint, the three rushed toward the southern end of Jerusalem, dropping an explosive charge on Eshkol Boulevard, a major traffic artery in the capital. The charge was later dismantled by the police.
Border police stationed on the road leading out of the city were notified of the car and spotted it approaching the barrier with a woman driving and a young man seated beside her.
Before the border police could signal the car to stop, the young man threw a hand grenade in their direction. The soldiers fired at the car, killing the two terrorists.
Police insisted Thursday that Kadosh was shot first by the terrorists before they were killed themselves.
The third terrorist, hospitalized at the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Ein Kerem, was put under heavy guard. Bullets and explosives were found in his bags and clothes.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in Paris on a state visit, condemned the attack, saying the “terrorists aim in fact at the peace process.”
But “the peace process will go on” in all parties’ interest, Rabin said.
“There is no possibility to contain hermetically terrorism,” the prime minister said.
NEVER DELUDED THAT HAMAS DISAPPEARED
“The closure of the territories proved to be a positive step. It restored security and confidence in Israel. But at the same time, it created various problems,” he said.
As the attack was reported in the media, tension rose high in Jerusalem. In one incident, an armed Israeli shot and wounded five Arab construction workers, apparently believing they were the terrorists.
The Israel Defense Force chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Ehud Barak, said the terrorists intended to take hostages for bargaining or cause massive casualties with the attack.
“We had hit the Hamas hard,” said Barak, apparently referring to both deportations and arrests of Hamas militants. “But we have never deluded ourselves that it had either evaporated or disappeared.”
Barak, as well as Police Inspector-General Rafi Peled, said that despite the tragic results of the attack, it was a failure for the terrorists, thanks to the courageous conduct of the driver and the border policeman who stopped the car containing the terrorists.
President Ezer Weizman also praised the bus driver, saying that his cool head prevented a potentially greater disaster.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, visiting the site of the attack, refused to associate the attack with the present difficulties in the peace process.
Peled described the attack as a highly sophisticated operation, saying the terrorists were equipped with a considerable amount of ammunition, six explosives and a number of hand grenades.
At the United Nations in New York, Israeli Ambassador Gad Yaacobi protested the attack in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
“Israel will continue to combat terrorism,” all the while continuing “to do its utmost to make progress toward peace,” Yaacobi wrote.