In Israel, a cry for vengeance TERROR IN TEL AVIV

October 20, 1994|By DOUG STRUCK | DOUG STRUCK,Jerusalem Bureau of The Sun

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL — A photo caption in yesterday's editions erroneously said that Tel Aviv is the former capital of Israel.

The Sun regrets the error.

TEL AVIV, Israel -- A terrorist with a bomb turned a sunny morning rush hour into a scene of death yesterday, killing 20 aboard a crowded commuter bus and further shaking Israeli faith in the peace process.

The attack led immediately to demands from politicians and the public for retaliation by the Israeli government.

Police believe a suicide bomber boarded the No. 5 bus that makes its way through the downtown district and detonated the explosive in the deadliest terrorist attack in Israel in 16 years. At least 45 people were injured, four seriously.


Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin rushed back from England, where he was on an official visit. In a televised address to the nation, he said that he will demand an end to legal restraints on Israeli army and secret police actions against Palestinian radicals.

"We must find ways so that suicide attackers know that not only are they liable to get killed in their activity but also that their homes, their family members could also be hurt," he said.

Moderate Palestinians working for peace must not be held responsible for such attacks, Mr. Rabin said. He blamed the bombing on Hamas, a Muslim fundamentalist group opposed to the peace process.

Mr. Rabin appeared agitated in his televised address about 10 p.m. He spoke of the dangers of Hamas, and said that he will ask the parliament today for a loosening of what he described as judicial shackles on the operation of Israeli security services.

"I want to have the possibility of making administrative arrests without legal complications," he said. "If we want to fight the Hamas to the end, we must be enabled by the judiciary to have the tools."

But he also railed against Jewish settlers who advocate taking over the entire West Bank and who consider it "greater Israel." He said Israel cannot "swallow up" more than 1 million Palestinians there.

"Those who want to spread settlements over the territories, a blurring of areas, intermixing," would cause opposition from all Palestinians, he said. "Then we will face much more severe terrorism."

L And he said the PLO should not be blamed for Hamas attacks.

Hamas "is an enemy that existed against us before signing" of the peace agreement with the Palestinians, he said. "This is an enemy which has to be defined and must not be lumped together with the others -- those Palestinians who want peace with us."

The Palestine Liberation Organization, a rival to Hamas and Israel's partner in the peace process, offered quick words of consolation.

"An outrageous attack," PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat called it in a statement. He telephoned Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres with an offer to help catch those responsible, according to Mr. Peres.

But many Israelis made no distinction between the Palestinian groups in their demands for tough response. In protest marches and television interviews yesterday, their calls for action ranged from stopping the Israeli-PLO peace talks to transferring 2 million Arabs out of Gaza and the West Bank.

"There is no place for two peoples in this small country. The Arabs should go out," said Yoel Adler, 50, a demonstrator at a police barricade a half-block from the scene of the bombing.

"A fence must be built around Gaza," said Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the opposition Likud bloc.

The government responded to the calls by imposing an immediate closure on Gaza and the West Bank.

"There is no doubt there is a war, a very difficult war, against Hamas," Mr. Rabin said last night.

But both the Israelis and the Palestinians made it clear that the peace process would continue.

Anonymous telephone calls to news services claimed that Hamas was responsible for the blast. The Associated Press reported that mosques in the Gaza Strip broadcast statements by loudspeaker from Hamas, claiming responsibility and promising further attacks.

Yesterday's was the third major attack by Palestinians against Israelis in two weeks. Hamas gunmen opened fire on a Jerusalem street Oct. 9, killing two, and later kidnapped and killed an Israeli soldier.

The attacks have plunged the country into despair, only partly offset by the announcement of a peace treaty with Jordan and the award of a Nobel Peace Prize to Mr. Rabin, Mr. Peres and Mr. Arafat for the peace agreement they signed last year.

Yesterday's attack also revived fears that the Palestinian opposition to peace may be successfully adopting new and more lethal tactics.

Yesterday, Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Street looked like a scene from Beirut's civil war. The attack occurred one block from Dizengoff Square, the city's shopping and pedestrian hub.

Police believe one passenger boarded the bus with 20 to 30 pounds of explosives strapped to his body or concealed in a package. He sat on the right side, probably about the fourth row, police said.

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