June 18, 2002
A Palestinian terrorist blew himself up inside a civilian bus at a crowded
intersection inside Jerusalem, murdering 20 bus passengers. The official
Palestinian media immediately winked at the bombing as being a legitimate
attack on Israeli “colonists.”
At least another 40 people were wounded aboard the number 32-A bus from
the southern neighborhood of Gilo which is just north of Bethlehem and the
Israeli Arab village of Beit Safafa. The Palestinian media used the location of the
bombing to justify the attack.
“It appears that most of the people on the bus were colonists from the colony
of Gilo which was built on land taken from our people in Bethlehem,” asserted
Nizar Al-Ghul, the chief anchorman of Yassir Arafat’s Voice of Palestine radio,
summing up the attack.
This reporter, who was listening to VOP radio at the time, was in his car not far
from the scene of the blast at 8:10 am (Jerusalem time) as tens of ambulances,
sirens screaming, surged past traffic towards the Patt Intersection where the
carbonized skeleton of the bus remained.
The attack occurred in the middle of Jerusalem’s morning rush hour, at a time
when Israeli security forces had been on high alert for at least five different
suicide bombers dispatched to blow themselves up in Jerusalem based on
reliable intelligence reports.
Throughout the night before the attack, Jerusalemites heard police
helicopters circling the city in the hopes of spotting the remaining suicide
One of the bombers was isolated last night (Monday) on the northern outskirts
of Jerusalem by Israeli border policemen. He blew himself up before he could be
disarmed, but without causing other casualties.
Police spokesmen said, as they have before, that it is impossible for them to
stop every single suicide bomber.
“We cannot put a policeman on every meter of the 71 kilometers of the
perimeter of Jerusalem,” asserted Jerusalem Police Chief Mickey Levy.
Voice of Palestine radio offered details of the attack – described laconically as
“an explosion”- including numbers of dead and wounded within minutes: much
faster than the Israeli media.
“An explosion occurred on a bus coming from the settlement of Gilo,
and the information we have from Israeli sources is that there are at least ten or
eleven dead on the bus,” reported Muhammad Abd-Rabbo, the Jerusalem
correspondent of VOP.
Interestingly, the Israeli media did not start broadcasting death figures for at
least another fifteen minutes.
His remarks at 8:15 am were eagerly received by VOP anchorman Nizar Al-Ghul
who said, “so, most of the people on the bus were from the colony of Gilo.”
“Yes,” said reporter Abd-Rabbo, “it was a bus from the settlement
(Arabic: mustawtanat) of Gilo built on land taken from Bethlehem.”
The anchorman repeated the item several times, stressing that Gilo was a
“colony” (Arabic: isti’mara), perhaps because Arafat’s Palestinian Authority
(PA) has repeatedly justified attacks on Israeli “settlers” even inside Jerusalem
as legitimate. (See: The Media Line reports for the last two weeks at
Although the PA condemned the attack in English, there was no condemnation
of the attack in the Arabic media where Palestinian officials kept up a tough line
against Israel and against the Bush Administration. The anti-American rhetoric
came as final touches were being placed on a major policy statement to be
delivered by the President.
“There is no solution except for Israel to withdraw from all our lands up
to the border of June 4, 1967,” declared Hanan Ashrawi, the Palestinian
legislator and spokeswoman who serves as an advisor to Arafat.
She and other PA officials stressed today that they refused any American plans
short of complete Israeli withdrawal, and they condemned Israel’s building of a
security fence to try to stop the penetration of its cities by suicide bombers.
The terrible sights we have seen today are stronger than any words,” asserted
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as he visited the site of the bus attack less than 70
minutes after the attack.
“I wonder what kind of Palestinian state people they (the Palestinians)
are talking about when they talk about a Palestinian state,” said Sharon.
“This terrible thing we see is just a continuation of Palestinian terror, and we
will do everything to fight it,” concluded Sharon in brief remarks in Hebrew.
But it was not clear whether Israel’s “National Unity Government” could agree
on a plan to back up Sharon’s words. Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin
Ben-Eliezer, leader of the dovish Labor Party, has resisted attempts for a full
Israeli incursion into Palestinian territory.
Whether the Sharon Government, divided between the more hard-line Likud
Party and the Labor Party which supports talks with Arafat or his aides could
agree on a united military or diplomatic plan remains to be seen.
“The inhabitants of no other city in the world would be able to withstand terror
attacks like this, and I salute the people of Jerusalem for their fortitude and
their vigilance,” asserted Jerusalem’s mayor Ehud Olmert.