Woman killed in Jerusalem as she sets up bomb

January 01, 1991|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Sun Staff Correspondent

JERUSALEM -- The man selling zucchini noticed her walk in yesterday. She wore a blue sweat suit as she entered the public restroom at Jerusalem's main vegetable market. She carried a package.

Minutes later, an explosion roared out of the restroom, leaving a signature of blood and shattered glass and the limp body of the woman.

Police say the Arab woman was killed as she was preparing to set a pipe bomb. It was to have been another act of terrorism, another ratchet-turn of violence and tension in an area already pulled taut by worries of war.

Rarely a day passes without some new killing, often tucked out of sight in a Palestinian village, but frequently now in Israel's cities.

A bomb hidden in a fruit crate in the same market killed a man in May. Eight Israelis have been killed since Oct. 8, when at least 18 Arabs were killed by police on Jerusalem's Temple Mount.

In yesterday's gentle sunlight, a crowd gathered at the market, where the dead woman's leg -- still wearing a sneaker -- poked out from behind a tiled wall of the restroom. They gave her a requiem in the notes of hatred that feed the violence here:

"Death to the Arabs," chanted a group from Kach, the extremist organization headed by Rabbi Meir Kahane until he was killed in New York last month. The chanters had assembled quickly from their headquarters a block from the explosion.

Some began to sing the national anthem of Israel.

"We have to expect this from the Arabs. All these problems are only because the Arabs are employed here," said a butcher in a stall near the restroom. Most of the shop stalls are owned by Jews, but Arabs work for them. "The moment they are thrown out, then everything will be OK."

Authorities were on guard for more violence today, the 26th anniversary of the first guerrilla attack by Fatah, the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

"I have no doubt it was related" to the anniversary, Police Chief Yaacov Turner said of yesterday's explosion.

Thirty-one Israelis have been killed since start of the 3-year-old Palestinian uprising. Fifteen Palestinians have been killed outside of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza strip. More than 700 have been killed by Israeli security forces in the zones.

Each act of violence spawns more. Most killings are followed by acts of revenge.

Palestinians also have killed one another. About 176 suspected collaborators were killed by other Palestinians in 1990, according to Israeli army figures. Leaders of the uprising had encouraged this, but in a change of policy yesterday they ordered an end to the practice and promised to punish anyone carrying out such attacks.

The new warning followed with a rise in attacks by nationalist and Islamic fundamentalist activists on suspected informers. The killings have averaged one a day in recent months.

In the market, those Arab workers who had not been rounded up by police for questioning quickly disappeared. They did not want to be targets for the random beatings often dealt out by crowds at such events.

Moshe Diar, 64, continued selling brightly colored scarves 20 feet from the body.

"I'm not afraid," he said, shrugging. "This is what we must live with."

"We built this market," said another shopkeeper nearby. "We will not leave."

With a grunt, two policemen lifted the body of the woman into a black body bag. Press photographers pushed and shoved for their picture angles as the men dragged the bag out of the restroom, leaving a smear of blood.

They hoisted the bag onto an ambulance gurney. It was a heavy, misshapen load. There were whistles and cheers from the crowd.

Police later said the woman was 24 years old. She was from Bethlehem, a focus of attention in the Christian world just six days ago.

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