JERUSALEM (Jan. 22)
The terrorist ran out of a covered passageway located between a clothing shop and a discount drugstore on Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road.
This portion of Jaffa, located near King George Street and Zion Square, is lined with shoe stores and inexpensive clothing shops. Sbarro’s, the pizzeria that was the scene of last summer’s deadly suicide bombing, is just down the block.
Every day, the street is filled with pedestrians shopping for shoes, perusing the selection of candy in the Elite chocolate shop or waiting for buses at one of several stops along the street.
The Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall, where 11 teen-agers were killed in a double suicide bombing in December, also is accessible from this part of Jaffa Road.
In short, when the terrorist came running out of the alley Tuesday with an M-16 assault rifle, he had a street full of possible victims.
He opened fired in all directions, wounding 46 people, six of them seriously, before being shot and killed by police.
The attack came shortly after the head of army intelligence warned that Israelis must brace for an unprecedented wave of terror.
The Al-Aksa Brigade, a militia of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah Party, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The United States condemned the attack.
“There’s no justification for these kinds of attacks; they only kill innocent people,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. “Once again, we call upon Chairman Arafat to take immediate and effective steps to end attacks such as these and bring those responsible to justice.”
The attack came hours after Israeli troops killed four prominent Hamas terrorists in a raid in Nablus. Four Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded in the operation, in which Israel uncovered and destroyed an explosives laboratory.
Hamas vowed a “brutal revenge” for the Israeli operation. Yet analysts noted that Tuesday’s attack was believed to be the first time Arafat’s Fatah has retaliated for an Israeli attack on Hamas.
Earlier Tuesday, Israeli troops pulled out of Tulkarm a day after taking over the West Bank city in a sweep for Palestinian terrorists. The incursion into Tulkarm marked the first time since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000 that Israel took over an entire city.
Israeli officials said they launched the incursion because Arafat was not doing anything to crack down on terrorists.
Some 50 Palestinians were detained, including 11 wanted terrorists, during the 30-hour takeover, Israel’s Army Radio reported.
The incursion took place days after a Palestinian from Tulkarm opened fire at a Bat Mitzvah in the northern Israeli city of Hadera, killing six Israelis and wounding more than 30.
Inside the David’s Palace banquet hall, guests were celebrating the coming of age of Nina Kardashova when a Palestinian man burst through the glass doors, shouting in Arabic and firing an M-16 assault rifle. Kardashova’s grandfather was among the victims.
The dead were identified as Aharon Ben Yisrael-Alis, 32, of Ra’anana, an American citizen; Dina Binayav, 48, of Ashkelon; Edward Bakshayev, 48, and Anatoli Bakshayev, 63, both of Or Akiva; Avi Yazadi, 25, of Hadera; and Boris Melihov, 56, of Sderot.
The attacker was beaten unconscious by Bat Mitzvah guests and then shot dead by police.
That attack, also claimed by Fatah’s Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade, said the Hadera attack was in retaliation for the bombing death earlier last week of Raed Karmi, a leader of the group in Tulkarm.
Palestinians accused Israel of assassinating Karmi. Israel neither confirmed nor denied the charge, but accused Karmi of being behind the deaths of nine Israelis in a series of terror attacks.
On Tuesday, the head of army intelligence predicted there would be more terror attacks, at least until the end of the formal mourning period for Karmi.
Addressing the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze’evi also charged that Arafat is not prepared to end the conflict with Israel even if Israel agrees to all the demands Arafat put forth in previous negotiations.
He also said U.S. officials view Arafat as a “lost cause,” but still consider him the only partner at present for a potential dialogue with Israel.
The Jerusalem shooting attack occurred at the height of the evening rush hour.
Police stationed in the area as part of a heightened security alert spotted the gunman and gave chase.
Jerusalem Police Chief Mickey Levy said the quick police response prevented a greater number of casualties.
Israel is engaged in a war that is being fought at home, “not some distant battlefield,” Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert said. “But we are dealing with it with courage and determination.”
Before police ended the terrorist’s shooting spree, he shot out the store window of X-Boy, a trendy clothing store whose display is covered in furry, black-and-white zebra material.
Hours later, the store owner and his son, Giora, were busy putting cardboard in the window before leaving for the night.
“Thank God no one was hurt in the store,” said Giora. “In an event like this, you put your store back together and are thankful that no one was hurt too badly.”
One of the lightly wounded victims was Faya Hasid, 40, who was in Coresh — a women’s clothing shop she owns with her husband, Moshe — when the terrorist came running out of the alley next door.
Faya Hasid was caught in the crossfire between the police and the terrorist, her husband said, pointing to bullet holes in two of the store’s windows.
“I don’t even worry about the property damage,” he said with a sigh. “I’m thankful that I’m still here to tell the story.
Across the street, next to the bus stop where several civilians were shot in the attack, a crowd of young men had gathered Tuesday evening, holding signs and calling for revenge on the Arabs.
Several policeman, shivering in the cold and rain, were guarding the small crowd.
A bystander stood staring at a nearby bus stop, which had two of its glass panels shot out during the attack.
“I wait for the bus here every day,” he said. “But that’s it. I’m telling my company to start paying for parking.”