Bomb kills 13 in Tel Aviv Israel breaks accord with Palestinians, to raid self-rule areas

March 05, 1996|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

TEL AVIV, ISREAL — TEL AVIV, Israel -- Tiny Batel Levy, 8, spoke for her country as she looked at the smear of blood on her small sweatshirt, the signature of the suicide bomber who killed 13 persons on a crowded city street yesterday.

"The blood on my shirt is everybody's blood," said the child with earnest brown eyes and a bandage on her hand from the bombing, as she sat on a hospital bed.

All of Israel seemed to bleed with the victims of yesterday's fourth suicide bombing in nine days. More than 125 people were injured. Among the dead were three children and a baby, according to initial reports. The death toll in just over a week rose to 59.

After the bombing, Israel's Cabinet voted at an emergency meeting to give the military and intelligence agencies permission to arrest or attack Muslim extremists "everywhere" -- including the Gaza Strip and six West Bank cities now under Palestinian control.

The Cabinet decision set up a special anti-terrorism unit authorized to take direct military action in the Palestinian areas, action that would violate the 1993 and 1994 Oslo peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

Such action could halt the peace process so long promoted by Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and hand the Islamic extremists a bloody victory in their campaign tokill the peace accords.

"They asked me, 'Where will we act?' My answer is everywhere," Mr. Peres said after the Cabinet meeting. "We will reach every corner from which the root of this terror flowers."

The first public action came late last night when Israeli Police Minister Moshe Shahal ordered authorities to close Palestinian institutions -- apparently including those in Jerusalem -- that he said had links to Hamas.

Palestinian officials warned against any unilateral actions by Israel.

"We are very disturbed by this decision," Marwan Kanafani, a spokesman for Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian national au- thority's president, said last night. "We believe if it is executed it might raise tension."

Apparently worried by the consequences, a spokesman for the political wing of the Hamas group in Gaza publicly appealed for an end to the bombings carried out by Izz a-din Qassam, the "military" faction of the fundamentalist Islamic group.

Palestinian police in Ramallah, north of Jerusalem,announced they had arrested a 28-year-old Palestinian college student in connection with suicide bombings on the previous two Sundays. No further information about the man was immediately available.

Yesterday's bombing once again demonstrated the ability of Palestinian terrorists to reach to the heart of Israel's main population centers and strike at Israel's vulnerabilities.

Police and soldiers flooded Jerusalem yesterday to prevent another attack after Sunday's bus bombing that killed 19. But the blow instead came in Tel Aviv on a pedestrian crosswalk only 100 yards away from the site of a bus bombing in October 1994 that killed 22.

In the middle of a crosswalk, a man with about 30 pounds of dynamite and nails strapped to his chest exploded the device, according to Gabi Last, the Tel Aviv police commander. The bomber acted at exactly 4 p.m. as the traffic light changed at a corner of Dizengoff Street to permit pedestrians to walk from one section of the city's most popular shopping mall to its annex across the street.

The blast swept through the plate glass store windows all along the block-long shopping center. Cars and store fronts were mangled by the force of the blast; people were cut down in amaelstrom of nails and glass shards.

"At first I thought it was some sort of electrical explosion in my store. Then I saw the terrible scene outside," said Avraham Rosenboum , 51, who owns an appliance store. "I tried to take care of a young girl, 14 or 15. Her throat was slit. We tried to stop the bleeding. She became blue. I hope she is alive, but I don't know."

Avner Brenner, 50, was on a motorbike near the explosion,and was thrown into a car. In a daze, he got back on his bike and drove to call his wife.

"As soon as I hung up, I felt the sky was falling down on me," said Mr. Brenner, immobilized in a neck brace atthe Tel Ha Shomer Hospital.

Down the corridor, Efi Geva and his wife Yochi expressed relief, believing their daughter was mildly injured and safe. Yesterday was Purim, an Israeli holiday similar to Halloween. And Karen Geva, 15, had gone to the shopping center to see friends, said her parents.

Inside an emergency room, a nurse told a reporter the girl was on a respirator with a neck wound.

In another room, Batel Levy calmly described how an afternoon walk on a gentle day with her aunt had burst into a scene of death.

"It was a terrorist, I think," she explained. "He blew up with the bomb. We were at the bank, and the money machine exploded at us.

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