Israelis Demand Reaction To Terrorist Bombings and Murder

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israelis demanded Tuesday that their government take action against Palestinian terrorism after two bombs exploded in Jerusalem. The blast comes less than a day after an Israeli baby became the youngest victim of the six-month old Palestinian campaign of violent protest and terror.

Security forces had been bracing themselves for the possibility of more violence on Tuesday, after Palestinians called for a "Day of Rage" to coincide with a key Arab summit in Jordan

Seven people were lightly injured in the first bomb, which occurred in a car near a shopping mall shortly before the morning rush hour. Several hours later, a second bomb exploded on or next to a bus in a northern Jerusalem suburb, wounding several people. One person, presumably a suicide bomber, was killed. Further details are awaited.

Referring to the earlier bombing, Jerusalem police chief Miki Levy said Israel was "lucky again" that more people had not been wounded or killed, as the bomb had been very large. Police said the Mitsubishi sedan in which the bomb had been hidden, had been reported stolen several months ago.

Police have determined that the bomb was not detonated with a cellular telephone as other recent bombs have been.

Oded Bar Zvi, manager of the mall just 300 yards from the blast, rushed outside after he heard the explosion. He noted that one hour later, the intersection would have been crammed with thousands of people.

Bar Zvi said the perpetrator had probably dropped the car off and escaped in another vehicle within seconds.

Pieces of twisted metal were strewn hundreds of meters from where the destroyed car had been parked. The windows of nearby clothing stores and parked cars were shattered in the blast.

The Israeli government is "obligated" to respond, said 24-year-old Hagit, who works in a nearby store.

"What will happen in the next day or two [is important]," said Yoel, a father of four. "In the meantime, I don't see anything new from the new government."

Didi, an immigrant from Ethiopia, who also works in the area, was "thanking God" this morning. For five years he had caught a bus daily from the bus stop across from the parked car. When the bus didn't arrive on time today, he began walking. He was a few hundred yards away when the explosion occurred.

"I don't believe in this peace," Didi said. "We are in the middle of a war. [PA Chairman Yasser] Arafat is a terrorist. They need to throw him out of here."

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon swept to power last month pledging to return security to Israeli citizens after months of violence. His predecessor, Ehud Barak, was heavily criticized at home for not responding firmly enough to terrorist attacks. Sharon Tuesday summoned his security cabinet for a crisis meeting.

Toddler targeted

The Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for the early bombing, in a statement sent to a news agency in Beirut. It said the attack was to avenge Israeli attacks against Palestinian families in Hebron, a city mostly under Palestinian Authority control, but where some 500 Jews live in heavily-guarded enclaves.

It was in one of these enclaves that 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass was shot dead Monday, presumably by a Palestinian sniper shooting, while in her mother's arms. She was an only child.

Shalhevet's father, Yitzik, was also wounded in both legs in the attack in their Avraham Avinu (Abraham Our Father) neighborhood.

An Israeli spokesman was quoted as saying the shooting and target was deliberate. He speculated that the gunman was probably a member of an elite PA police unit, "because only they have rifles with telescopes."

The stricken family issued a statement saying they would not bury their daughter until the army took control of the hill above their home, where the attack was believed to have originated.

The shooting prompted Israeli troops to fire tank rounds at a nearby building in a Palestinian zone that Arab gunmen are believed to have used for cover.

Some 50 Israeli youths broke through a barricade before dawn on Tuesday and tried to take the hill, but were turned back by Israeli soldiers.

"[The army] knows what should be done," said Hebron Jewish community spokesman David Wilder Tuesday, referring to the hill. "We know what should be done."

Wilder said that from the time Israel handed the area over to PA control four years ago, the Jewish residents there knew the army would one day have to recapture it.

Sharon has said that he will not retake areas already handed over to the PA. However, the Israeli army has advised Arab residents of the neighborhood to evacuate their homes for their own safety's sake.

Wilder noted that many Arabs had already left the area, tired of the fact Palestinians snipers have used it for cover, inviting Israeli retaliation.

Determined to stay

The Pass family has paid a heavy price for living in Hebron. Three weeks ago, the dead toddler's uncle, Eldad, was shot in the leg. In 1993, her grandfather was critically wounded when two Arabs attacked him with an axe. Her mother's twin sister was stabbed in 1996, when she was a young teen.

Hebron was divided in 1996 into Israeli and Palestinian areas in a complex agreement worked out between Arafat and former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Approximately 500 Israelis live in four separate enclaves surrounded by thousands of Arabs. It isn't an easy choice, but the sentiment that drives them is strong.

Since Biblical times, Hebron was a Jewish city. It served as King David's capital before he moved the seat of his kingdom to Jerusalem some 3,000 years ago. The Jewish patriarchs, including Abraham, are buried there, in a location now revered by Jews and Muslims (who also regard him as a Muslim prophet.)

From 1492, when the Jews were driven out of Spain and some resettled in Hebron, until Arab riots in 1929 drove them out, there was a continuous Jewish presence in the city. Israelis began returning in the last decades of the 20th century, reoccupying homes and land to which they had legal claim.

"This is our home," said Wilder. "Leaving Hebron is acquiescing to Arab terror."

He likened an Israeli pullout to the army's unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, which the Arab world viewed as a victory for the militant Hizballah organization. Wilder said Arafat was trying to force the same kind of evacuation from Hebron.

"It's not going to happen," Wilder said. "We came back to Hebron, not for personal reasons [but] to see that Hebron remains a Jewish city."