Jerusalem police patrol in full force after bomb attack

People, bags searched, sharpshooters added along deadly Jaffa Road

January 29, 2002|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

JERUSALEM - Even for the security-conscious city of Jerusalem, the police deployments yesterday were remarkable.

There were police dressed in blue, police dressed in the khaki-green of soldiers, police on horses and in cars - all on Jaffa Road, where a bomb had ripped apart a line of shops, killed the Palestinian bomber as well as an elderly Israeli and injured more than 100 other people Sunday.

Sharpshooters stood on the rooftops. Police in jeeps drove back and forth.

Authorities cast a suspicious gaze on every pedestrian and pressed young Palestinian men against walls to be patted down. Entrances to the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall were blocked by blue metal gates guarded by police who decided who would have the opportunity to shop and who would not.

The show of force was intended to counter threats of additional attacks but also highlighted the city's vulnerability. Known for its ability to recover quickly from attacks, the city placed its citizens virtually under siege.

"Who can shop?" said Qumas Maldan, the owner of a Jaffa Road clothing store. "There are only police here. They can do nothing. They're just doing this to make people feel good."

Public officials have few words of comfort. "We're in a long war, and we will pay prices," Ehud Olmert, Jurusalem's blustery mayor, said Sunday, looking at a street littered with debris and human remains. "I can't say this won't be repeated."

Security was already a fixture of the city. A person's bags were always searched before he could enter a grocery store or a theater. Police carrying assault rifles were already on the streets. But more drastic measures may be imposed soon. Officials are considering designating a triangular section of downtown - bordered by the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall, King David Street and Jaffa Road - a zone that would have access regulated by police at checkpoints, and be closed to vehicles. That change could create traffic jams on other streets, and in effect make the central business district a military zone.

A Palestinian man driving a stolen car demonstrated yesterday that checkpoints can be overcome. The driver managed to break through an army checkpoint separating Israel from the West Bank and ran over two police officers in a Tel Aviv suburb.

The officers shot and killed the unarmed man, whom they described as a terrorist. Palestinian officials labeled him a car thief.

Nahum Barnea, writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, said Israelis were resigned to a deadly stalemate. "People placed their faith in the right and were disappointed," he wrote. "They placed their faith in the left and were disappointed. They placed their faith in unity and despaired. Arafat was not the subject of debate on Jaffa Road. [Ariel] Sharon was. People spoke sadly, almost with pity. They knew that their Prime Minister was no better than they were: Neither they nor he have an answer."

On Jaffa Road, Yossi Ahudt, a 42-year-old immigrant from Iran, said that by yesterday afternoon his business for the day consisted of the sale of one shirt, for $12.

The terrorists, he said, have already won.

"It's like Russian roulette out here," he said. "We're like sitting ducks, and God only knows who among us will be next."

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