While the World Debates the Fence, Israel buries its Dead

Medical personnel carry a wounded man away from the scene of a suicide bombing attack in a Jerusalem bus. A suicide bomber blew himself up on the crowded Jerusalem bus, killing 8 people and wounding more than 60. The killer reportedly lived in the biblical city of Jerusalem.

Photo by Lefteris Pitarakis / AP Photo

(IFM) A suicide bomber detonated the explosives he was wearing on a crowded city bus in Jerusalem early Sunday morning near the capital’s Liberty Bell Park. Eight people were killed and more than 60 were wounded–including several children–when the bomber struck.

The 23-year-old terrorist was from Yasser Arafat’s Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and apparently lived in central Jerusalem. Despite the fact that two security guards swept the bus’ interior for any possible threats, they did not suspect the terrorist Muhammed Za’ul from Bethlehem.

Four of the victims have been identified as:

Lior Azulai, 18, a student at the Gymnasia Rehavia high school;
Benayahu Yehonatan Zuckerman, 18, a student at the Experimental School in Jerusalem;
Yuval Ozana, 32, of Jerusalem; and
St.-Sgt. Netanel Havshush, 20, of Jerusalem.

(Haaretz) Government sources in Jerusalem said Sunday that Israel would not launch a harsh military response to the suicide bombing on a bus in the capital during the morning rush hour, which killed eight people and wounded 66 others.

The remarks followed a meeting between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz held after the weekly cabinet meeting.

Security forces also went on heightened alert Sunday, due to terror warnings and the debate on the separation fence at The Hague, which is due to begin Monday.

Military sources said that there will be no choice but to operate in Bethlehem in the near future, as there has been a significant rise in terrorist activities in the city over the past few months.

The suicide bomber who blew himself up on a Jerusalem bus at the end of January and killed 11 people was also dispatched from Bethlehem.

Sharon and Mofaz met for two hours, during which they were updated on the details of the suicide attack and discussed possible Israeli responses. Mofaz was also to convene a meeting of security officials later in the day, for a further assessment of how to respond to the bombing.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, addressing a tourism conference Sunday evening, said, "Today in Jerusalem, we received a painful reminder of the cruelty of Palestinian terrorism." He did not indicate what Israel’s response would be.

The IDF on Sunday reinstated its siege on Bethlehem and arrested several members of the suicide bomber’s family in the village of Hussan, which is in the area.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade on Sunday claimed responsibility for the attack on Egged bus No. 14. The dead included six men and two women.

Five of the eight victims have been identified: Lior Azulai, 18, who studied at the Gymnasia Rehavia high school in the capital; Nathaniel Havshush, 20, a Staff Sergeant in the Israel Defense Forces; Bnayahu Jonathan Zuckerman, 18, who studied at the Experimental School of Jerusalem; Yehuda Haim, a 48-year-old store owner from Givat Ze’ev; and Yuval Ozana, a 31-year-old resident of the capital.

Following the attack, IDF troops placed the entire region around West Bank city of Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem, under closure and sealed off the village of Hussan, where the suicide bomber lived.

The bomber’s family began removing furniture and belongings from the house, fearing an IDF demolition.

A statement released by the militant group, associated with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, named the bomber as Mohammed Za’el, 23, from the village of Hussan near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, and made a reference to the separation fence being built by Israel.

Za’el was married and a father to a child. His wife is reportedly pregnant.

The communique called the barrier "a Nazi wall which will not stop us attacking." The statement also claimed the attack was in retaliation for the killing of 15 Palestinians during an IDF operation in the Gaza Strip on February 11.

Prior to the official claim of responsibility, Hezbollah’s television station, Al-Manar, reported that the suicide bombing had been executed on behalf of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and named the bomber.

The attack came the day before the start of the International Court of Justice hearings on the West Bank separation fence, which Israel says is crucial for keeping out bombers.

The blast took place at around 8:30 A.M. in the neighborhood of Rehavia, close to Liberty Bell Park. The bus, travelling to the Beit Hakerem neighborhood, is usually very crowded at that time of day.

According to Israel Radio, a Ministry of Transportation security guard scoured the bus and disembarked three stops before the place of the explosion.

All the wounded were evacuated from the scene of the blast to Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, Hadassah University Hospital, Mt Scopus, Bikur Holim and Shaare Zedek Medical Center in the capital.

One of the wounded was in critical condition at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, while six others were seriously wounded.

Police said they were investigating small traces of a chemical that was out of the ordinary, but believed it may have come from a can of spray carried by a passenger.

A Palestinian suicide bomber last struck in Jerusalem on January 29, killing 11 people on a bus.

Source: Haaretz and IFM