Suicide Bombers Target Israelis
Suicide Bombers Target Israelis
"All Those Serving Food Are No Longer Among the Living"
By: Ohad Gozani
Date: April 1, 2002
Source: The Daily Telegraph (London)
About the Author: Ohad Gozani is a native Israeli and a news reporter with the Daily Telegraph. He reports from Tel Aviv on events in Israel and also writes for the Associated Press.
From the autumn of 2000 through the end of summer in 2002, more than four hundred people were killed in Israel as a direct result of political violence aimed at Israelis. The majority of deaths, and over one thousand injuries, occurred at the hands of suicide bombers, most of whom were Palestinian, and many were affiliated with Islamist extremist groups Hamas (the Arabic acronym for "The Islamic Resistance Movement") and Islamic Jihad, two terrorist organizations that advocate political violence as a means to establish a Palestinian state.
Yassir Arafat (1929–2004), then president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which represents the interests of the Palestinian people and is treated as a putative government for the Palestinian people (although Palestine is not recognized by International law as a nation or country), allegedly condoned the bombings. Many nations asserted that the PA had lost control over more radical elements in the region. As the suicide bombings continued, and included the new occurrence of female suicide bombers, tension escalated.
Arafat was sharply criticized for not taking a firmer stance against the suicide bombings, and for not acting quickly to squelch the series of bombings and attacks. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad opposed the Palestinian Authority, considering Arafat and his organization too moderate in fighting for the Palestinian state. The extremist groups also oppose peace process negotiations with Israel.
They spoke of a miracle in Haifa yesterday after a petrol station with tanks full of fuel was barely touched by the huge explosion that tore through a restaurant and shop 50 yards away.
At least 16 people were killed and 30 injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up among the lunchtime crowd at the Matza restaurant in the town centre.
A fire brigade commander said he believed "it was the hand of God" that prevented the bomb from igniting the fuel in the petrol tanks.
A passer-by, Shimon Sabag, described the scene after the explosion. "Pieces of flesh were all over the place, people were burning," he said. "We pulled people out of the restaurant and store next door."
The roadside restaurant is owned by an Israeli Arab family and its Middle Eastern cuisine is popular with local people and travelers. It has long been a symbol of coexistence between Jews and Arabs.
"I am sure this was the reason why the bomber chose to hit this place," said Modi Sandberg, a former MP who lives in the locality.
Mickey Matza, whose family owns the complex, said: "Arabs and Israelis have worked and dined together here for many years. There was nothing unusual about it—and now such a great tragedy."
Shahar Azran, an Israeli news photographer on home leave from New York, said: "We ate at the restaurant and went home. Hardly two minutes later, I heard the explosion and rushed back. All the people who were serving food are no longer among the living."
The blast tore two holes in the asbestos roof. The windows were blown out and the mangled bodies were covered by upturned chairs, while tables were left standing in pools of blood.
A police spokesman said there was no security guard at the restaurant door.
Two militant Islamic groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, said they were responsible.
It was the fourth such bombing in Israel in five days, and the second in Haifa in four months. It came less than a day after another suicide bomber blew himself up in a cafe in the centre of Tel Aviv, killing himself and injuring 24 people.
The frequent bombings have discouraged outdoor activities during the Passover holiday. Many officials have urged Israelis to carry on with life as usual, but Amram Mitzna, the mayor of Haifa, broke ranks to urge people to stay indoors.
He cancelled several large functions, including a children's drama festival, and urged his citizens not to frequent places that had no security guards.
Mr Azran agreed. "I guess I won't be going out tonight at all," he said.
Ali, the restaurant manager, who was in hospital with concussion and shock, said from his bed: "I hope this was the last attack."
The month of March, 2002, was one of the bloodiest in terms of terrorism on Israeli land. Between March 2 and March 31, twelve terrorist bombings occurred across the country, resulting in nearly eighty deaths and hundreds of injuries. In response to these bombings, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered Operation "Defensive Shield," an extensive assault against groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah as well as Yassir Arafat's personal compound were seized.
During "Defensive Shield," which lasted from March 29, 2002 through May 10, 2002, the Israeli military called up more than 20,000 reservists, the largest number since the 1982 Lebanon War. Prime Minister Sharon declared the goal of the operation to be to "catch and arrest terrorists and, primarily, their dispatchers and those who finance and support them; to confiscate weapons intended to be used against Israeli citizens; to expose and destroy terrorist facilities and explosives, laboratories, weapons production factories and secret installations."
The Israeli response included military action in four primary cities: Jenin, Nablus, Bethlehem, and Ramallah. Conflict in Jenin was particularly fierce, with twenty-three Israeli soldiers and fifty-two Palestinians dying during one day's fighting. The Israeli government imposed curfews on Palestinians and bulldozed houses that had been used by Palestinians during the armed conflict.
In a June 24, 2002 speech by United States President George W. Bush, the president called for "a new and different Palestinian leadership," a direct reference to Yassir Arafat's perceived weakness as leader of the Palestinian Authority. Although violence decreased, and suicide bombings dropped to their lowest levels in years, in less than a year, Arafat was isolated in Ramallah and replaced as head of the Palestinian Authority by Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas resigned within four months, from lack of support from Arafat himself. After Arafat's death in 2004, Abbas ran for President of the PA in January 2005 and won with more than 60 percent of the vote.
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Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "Operation Defensive Shield: Special Update." <http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2002/3/Operation%20Defensive%20Shield> (accessed July 14, 2005).
Yale Global Online. "Terrorists and Their Tools—Part I." <http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=3749> (accessed July 14, 2005).