LONDON (Jul. 26)
British Jewry’s leadership has reacted with outrage to Tuesday’s bombing of the Israeli Embassy here, the latest attack against Jewish targets around the world.
The explosion, which left at least 13 people injured, came eight days after a bomb tore through the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing close to 100 people, and six days after a bomb killed 21 people, including 12 Jews, on board a Panamanian plane.
One leading British Jewish organization said this week that it had warned the police and the government that Muslim fundamentalists opposed to the Middle East peace proces were likely to use London as a target.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews said in a statement, “We warned the police and the Home Office that this could happen. But they did nothing to crack down on the extremists, and this is the result.
After the explosion in Buenos Aires last week, the Board of Deputies requested that London police set up extra security measures at Jewish communal buildings in London, particularly those housing the board and the country’s chief rabbi.
As part of their request, they sought police restrictions on parking near Jewish communal buildings. The police did not immediately act upon the request, but after Tuesday’s bombing they indicated that parking would be blocked off near Jewish communal sites.
In both the Buenos Aires and this incident, the explosion was caused by car bombs parked near the targeted buildingd.
In this week’s explosion, a well-dressed middle-aged woman carrying a shopping bag from Harrod’s department store and described by police as being of Middle Eastern appearance, was seen leaving a car shortly before the bomb exploded at around noon.
‘PARTS OF THE BUILDING JUST COLLAPSED’
She had apparently aroused the suspicion of security officials. An Israeli security guard and a policemen were reportedly checking her car when the bomb went off.
The explosion ripped through the consular offices attached to the embassy, which front a different, less secured street than the heavily guarded one freating the main building.
More than 44 pounds of explosives were used in the attack, which caused most of the consular building to collapse.
The blast was said to be so powerful that witnesses half-a-mile away reported seeing debris shoot up hundreds of feet in the air. Windows in nearby buildings were shattered, including those in nearby Kensington Palace, home of Princess Diana.
“It was such a huge, huge explosion. Parts of the building just collapsed,” said Rachel Gordon, who works in the embassy’s press office.
It was perhaps just a matter of luck that there were no fatalities in Tuesday’s bombing, which occurred when many embassy staffers were out of the building for lunch. It was not immediately clear how many people were in the building at the time of the explosion.
Of those injured, only one–a worker who fell off scaffolding at a nearby building — was seriously hurt. One of those injured was a police officer guarding the building.
The attack came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Jordan’s King Hussein signed a historic non-belligerency treaty in Washington.
Rabin, speaking in Washington on Tuesday, pointed blame for the attack at Islamic extremists bent on undermining Israel’s peacemaking efforts with its Arab neighbors.
“There is no doubt in my mind we face a wave of extreme Islamic radical terrorist movements,” he told NBC News. “They have infrastructure all over the world, in the United States, in Europe, in Latin America.”
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
The bombing also drew sharp condemnations from British government officials. Douglas Hogg, a Foreign Office official, said the attack was a “most shocking offense” and stressed there would be an increase in security.
‘A SHOCKING ABSENCE OF CIVILIZED VALUES’
Greville Janner, a Jewish member of Parliament and former president of the Board of Deputies, called for an inquiry into the attack.
British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks described the attack as an act committed by people bereft of all respect for human life.
“The Jewish community regard the attack ouside the Israeli Embassy as a moral outrage,” he said in a statement. “This act, perpetrated by enemies of peace, targeted innocent men and women, displaying a shocking absence of civilized values.”
Israel’s London embassy is located in Palace Green, an exclusive street of embassies and millionaries’ homes in the Kensington area.
Because of this concentration of royals, diplomats and wealth, there is always a strong security presence in the area. The long street on which the embassy is located has barriers at either end, where visitors are asked to state their business.
In addition, Israeli Embassy officials have their own security mechanism which prevents anyone from entering the building without proper clearance. The consular section at the rear of the embassy, which was targeted by the explosion, was not as secure.
The last attack targeting an Israeli in London occured in June 1982, when then-Israeli ambassador to London, Shlomo Argov, was gunned down outside the city’s Dorchester Hotel. He suffered severe injuries, from which he has never recovered. He lives in seclusion under medical care in Jerusalem. The attack was blamed on Arab terrorists, but no one was ever tried for it.