Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has vowed to continue the negotiations with the Palestinians despite the latest terror attack.
“The time has come to distinguish between Palestinians who are the enemies of peace, and those who seek a negotiated agreement, to distinguish who are the murders among the Palestinians,” Rabin said in remarks to the Israeli public just hours after a suicide bomb ripped through two commuter buses in Jerusalem.
At least time people were killed, including an American woman, and more than 100 were injured in Monday’s attack, which came one day after Israel reopened the Gaza Strip, which has been closed for 10 days after Israel received intelligence reports that fundamentalist terrorists were planning a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.
Israel re-imposed a closure on Gaza, as well as on the West Bank, shortly after Monday’s bombing.
Although Rabin did not waver in his resolve to continue the talks, he temporarily suspended the negotiations.
Among the opposition, however, leaders called for an abrupt end to the talks. And within hours of the bombing, demonstrators were out on the streets, both in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel, sharply attacking the Rabin government’s peace policies.
Monday’s attack drew sharp words of criticism from Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat.
In a speech at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City, Arafat lashed out at Iran for funding the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement, which claimed responsibility for the latest attack.
“Your money, your bombs and your oil have not regained an inch of our land for us,” Arafat said, addressing Iran.
“I will cut the hand of anyone who takes orders from parties outside the Palestinian arena or anyone who receives external financing, be it from Iran or others,” Arafat said.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres applauded Arafat’s stance, saying that the Palestinians “know that terror is aimed against them, not only against us, that if there is something that can stop the Palestinian hopes and destiny, it is Palestinian terror.”
The bombing also drew criticism from world leaders, including President Clinton, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and leaders of the European Union.
Among the victims of the attack on the No. 26 bus in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Eshkol was an American tourist, identified by the U.S. State Department as Joan Devanney. Two Americans were also among the wounded, the State Department said.
Devanney was a teacher at a Jewish school in New Haven, Conn., who was spending the year in Israel on a special program for Jewish educators.
Israeli officials identified two of the others killed as Noam Eisenman, 35, and Rivka Cohen, 26, both of Jerusalem.
Two other bodies, one male and the other female, have not yet been identified.
Jerusalem police said late Monday that they believed the male corpse could be that of the bomber’s.
But there was also speculation that the bomber was a woman. Israel Radio reported that a 20-year-old resident of the village of Azaria, located outside Jerusalem, had been missing from her home since the night before.
Following the attack, Rabin held consultations with security advisers to discuss measures that could be taken to fight terror.
At a news conference afterwards, Rabin said that when the lives of Jews and Palestinians were so itermingled, it is nearly impossible to prevent such terror attacks from happening.
The attack occurred shortly before 8 a.m. Monday, as the Egged bus was en route to the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University.
As it passed through an intersection in front of the Rene Cassin High School in Jerusalem’s Ramot campus of Hebrew University.
As it passed through an intersection in front of the Rene Cassin High School in Jerusalem’s Ramot Eshkol neighborhood, the blast went off.
A second bus that was passing by was also hit by the explosion.
Police said the suicide bomber was sitting toward the back of the bus when a pipe bomb, weighing about 9 to 13 pounds and packed with nails, was detonated.
Police said the bomb was similar to others built by Yehia Ayash, a Hamas fugitive nicknamed “The Engineer” who was suspected by Israeli authorities of masterminding previous attacks.
Hamas has claimed responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks that have killed 89 Israelis and wounded more than 372 others since the signing of the self-rule accord in Washington in September 1993.
The force of Monday’s blast blew out the bus windows, and twisted and scorched its frame. The exteriors of both buses were blackened by smoke from a fire caused by the blast.
Emergency medical teams began evacuating victims shortly after the blast, taking the wounded to Jerusalem area hospitals.
Members of the Chevra Kadisha burial society also arrived, collecting fragments of human flesh for burial.
Shortly after the explosion, angry crowds gathered at the site, shouting, “We want revenge” and “Rabin is a traitor.”
The unrest took on near-riot proportions when President Ezer Weizman visited the site to “identify with the pain of the people.”
Instead, he was quickly hustled away, surrounded by border police guards and bodyguards, after his appeals to restore calm were drowned out by the angry crowd.
Weizman later visited the wounded in the hospital, where he said the current situation required the Rabin government to do some serious rethinking of its policies.
“I’ve said it once before; we have to reassess the situation,” Weizman told reporters. “The issue isn’t just whether to continue the talks or not, but something more complex: How do we continue, not just in the direction of an interim agreement, but toward a permanent settlement and make sure that in return such things won’t happen again?”
By noon, the main boulevard where the blast had occurred had been reopened to traffic.
Opposition reaction to the attack was swift, with right-wing leaders calling for an immediate halt to the pace negotiations.
But Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu also called on the public to show restraint, despite its outrage.
He said the Likud would support the Rabin government only if it stopped the talks.
“I don’t think the government understands that you cannot continue talks with the PLO as if nothing happened,” he told Israel Radio.
Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert of Likud said the attack proved that security arrangements were inadequate.
“I am very distressed and we will have to reconsider our attitude toward the entire security arrangements, and possible implications for future agreement on the security of Jerusalem,” he said.
“There was an illusion that the government was capable of sealing Jerusalem out of any penetration. I think it’s quit obvious now that it’s impossible,” Olmert added.
Demonstrations against the peace process took place at different intersections throughout the country Monday night.
In Jerusalem, water cannons were used at some sites to disperse the crowds.
Despite Rabin’s vow to move ahead with the peace talks, Monday’s attack seemed likely to cause setbacks in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Though a number of issues remained unresolved, talks on expanding Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank had mad significant progress in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, the two sides signed a partial accord on the next phase of West Bank.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators had been meeting in Eilat and were reportedly trying to complete a draft agreement by the end of the week.
Working groups were trying to overcome differences in the main areas of contention: water rights, security arrangements in Hebron and the release of Palestinian prisoners.
In Washington, plans were underway for a White House signing ceremony of the interim phase agreement in early September.