Terrorists Hit Jerusalem’s Pleasure Center

The brightly-lit cafes, restaurants and night spots of central Jerusalem’s main pedestrian mall were packed with youngsters on an ordinary Saturday night’s outing, when two suicide killers blew themselves up at the heart of the throng. Within seconds, the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall near Zion Square filled with screams, flying limbs and pools of blood, a larger version of the scene seen twice this week – once in the Afula bus station and again on the Nazareth Tel Aviv bus.
But it was not over yet. As the rescue teams, backed by dozens of ambulances, rushed in to attend the scores of wounded, a booby-trapped car blew up 100 yards away from the suiciders, adding to the carnage.
The casualty total of 10 dead and 170 wounded, 9 critically and 44 seriously – rose from hour to hour, packing all the hospitals of the city with injured, crippled and traumatized victims. The injuries were more serious than in previous bombings – more torn bodies – suggesting a new and more powerful type of explosive. The national blood bank constantly replenished the city’s falling supplies. Outside, the police combed through downtown streets, examining every parked car for more booby-traps, before turning the streets over to the city’s cleanup crews. Sunday morning, shopkeepers would have to assess the damage to their businesses.
In New York, prime minister Ariel Sharon asked President George W. Bush to see him before their scheduled date on Monday, so that he could hurry home and handle the mounting terror crisis. Bush put their date forward to noon Sunday. The Israeli prime minister will therefore not be at his post before Monday morning.
This delay has aroused widespread popular criticism, many Israelis declaring that their prime minister’s place is at home after the worst terrorist disaster ever to hit the much terrorized capital and one of the gravest since the Palestinian campaign of violence was launched last year. The foreign and defense ministers, who were left behind to mind the shop, took their time before addressing the emergency. Sunday morning was time enough for an emergency defense cabinet session.
debkafile‘s terrorist sources, citing the latest intelligence assessment that all the Palestinian groups have begun operating in concert, note that Saturday night’s triple bombing in Jerusalem must have been planned, prepared and executed by a highly professional intelligence agency. The only Palestinian bodies that qualify are the security services run by Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority.
The operation required at least half a dozen trained terror operatives to carry out the different functions: the two suicides, who had high explosives mixed with large nails and iron scrap strapped to their bodies; two or three operatives, who planted the booby-trapped car in a nearby side street. Immediately after the first two blasts, they detonated the car in time to trap the rescue teams and ambulances, before making their escape in a waiting getaway vehicle.
A back-up team was also probably hanging about not far from the target scene to cover the escape if the need arose. Its members were also able to melt away.
The Palestinian terror team’s entry, action and escape were precisely planned and executed.
Last week, shortly after the US envoy, Anthony Zinni, arrived for his mission to broker a ceasefire, Israel, the United State and Jordan received advance intelligence of a plan laid by Arafat and his security chiefs to embark on a series of “strategic terrorist operations” to score a mass death toll of Israeli civilians – as debkafile reported earlier.
As to Arafat’s condemnation, he has never had any qualms about formally denouncing the terrorist actions he himself engineered. Neither is he bothered by being told explicitly by US secretary of state Colin Powell that neither he nor the President any longer believes anything that Arafat says.
The Jordanian government, debkafile‘s intelligence sources reveal, recently warned the Palestinian leader that any further major Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel would lead to the long-term closure of the Jordanian frontier to Palestinian passage.
The question asked with increasing urgency in broad Israeli circles is this: If a little country like Jordan can stand up to Arafat and slap down a final warning, why can’t the Israeli government? And why was Israel not prepared for this latest terrorist outrage?
Inside Sharon’s broad coalition government voices are multiplying for the Palestinian Authority to be proclaimed an enemy and war declared.
By waiting for the US President to receive him, Sharon lost precious ground: He appeared to be procrastinating when he should have been moving into action at top speed. As things stand, before he and his defense cabinet get their act together, Arafat and his killers will strike again. The Palestinian leader may even find military backing from across Israel’s northern border.

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