Death Toll Rises to 22 from Tel Aviv Bus Attack

The death toll from last week’s suicide bombing of a Tel Aviv bus rose to 22 after one of the injured died from her wounds on Sunday.

Kochava Biton, 61, of Tel Aviv, had been listed as critically wounded immediately after the bombing, which also left 41 others injured. She was laid to rest Sunday afternoon in Tel Aviv.

All of the victims of the bomb blast were Israelis, with the exception of one, who was a student from Holland.

On Saturday night, a memorial service and political rally that drew an estimated 40,000 people was held at the scene of the attack on Dizengoff Street in the heart of Tel Aviv.

Thousands of memorial candles were lit along the street in memory of the victims, and opposition party leaders condemned Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s peace initiatives with the Palestinians.

Demonstrators held banners with such slogans as: “Down With Rabin,” “Death to the Arabs,” “This Peace is Killing Us,” “1994 Government: The Final Solution” and “Rabin is Lying, Jews are Dying, and God is Crying.”

Behing the speakers’ platform were giant video screens showing bloody pictures of the carnage from the Oct. 19 bus bombing. Whenever the crowd reaction died down, new and even bloodier pictures flashed on the screens, building up the tension.

The meeting was generally peaceful, except toward the end, when anti-peace activists clashed with shocked members of the crowd protesting the carnage displayed on the screens.

Israeli medical authorities have meanwhile positively identified the suicide bomber as Salah Abdel-Rahim Hassan Assawi, 27, of the West Bank town of Kalkilya.

The Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement last week released a videotape of Assawi in which he described himself as a “living martyr” about to give up his life in an attack upon Israelis.

But neither Assawi nor Hamas explicitly said he was responsible for the bus attack.

Medical experts made the identification Sunday after taking blood and saliva samples from Assawi’s parents and brother and comparing them with the remains of one of the bodies strewn across the streets of Israel’s largest city.

Hamas issued a statement from the West Bank on Sunday saying the bus bombing was the fifth and final attack the militant group had promised it would carry out in revenge for the Hebron massacre in February, when Jewish settler Dr. Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinians praying at the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

In its statement, Hamas warned of further attacks on Israelis.

The Civil Rights Association in Israel is meanwhile supporting the appeal of Assawi’s family to the High Court of Justice to prevent the demolition of their house in Kalkilya. Israeli authorities often mete out such punishment on the homes of terrorists.

Officials with the Civil Rights Association say they are not acting on behalf of Assawi, but on behalf of his family.

They say the punishment of a person’s family for a crime which they themselves did not commit is a distinctly un-Jewish approach.

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