London bomb blitz on Israel: 1am today: second car blast hits Jewish charity office after yesterday's attack on embassy

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The Independent Online
TWO TERRORIST car bombs hit Israeli targets in London yesterday and early today. The first blast injured 14 people outside the Israeli embassy in Kensington at lunchtime yesterday. At 12.45 this morning, a second bomb exploded at the offices of Britain's largest Jewish charity in north London, injuring three people.

The blast at the Joint Israel Appeal in High Road, Finchley, was heard all over north London. Paul Clifford, 18, who was sitting in a bus shelter with friends yards from where the bomb exploded, said the force of the explosion lifted him upwards. 'Every window in the street was blown out.'

The JIA was founded before the state of Israel was established. It raises money for Jewish education and social welfare projects in Britain and Israel. It also offers advice to British Jews wishing to immigrate to Israel.

'After the embassy, the JIA is the next most obvious Jewish target in London,' said a member of the Jewish community last night.

The embassy explosion left the Government embarrassed by what was seen as a major security lapse. A woman was able to drive a stolen car with 20-30lb of high explosives into Kensington Palace Gardens, a street containing several embassies and a royal palace, and to leave it yards from the embassy.

The bomber, described as aged 55 to 60, and 'of Mediterranean appearance', drove a grey Audi 100 past security guards at the end of Kensington Palace Gardens just after noon. She parked in a car park outside a block of flats. As she walked away, a private security guard and an Israeli embassy guard became suspicious and prepared to challenge her. As she walked towards Kensington High Street, the bomb exploded. The car was blown 50 feet (15 metres) by the blast.

Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist Squad was astonished there had been a gap of less than a minute from her leaving the car to the explosion.

The blast damaged many buildings near the embassy, and windows were shattered at Kensington Palace. There was no warning of the attack, and no group has claimed responsibility.

Shoppers fled screaming from Kensington High Street after the explosion. But Charing Cross Hospital, which dealt with the victims, reported that the most serious injury was a broken arm. Casualties included a 34-year-old police officer in the Diplomatic Protection Group.

Jewish communities around the world have been on heightened alert following last week's bomb attack on a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires, which killed 96 people, and the signing two days ago of a peace accord between Israel and Jordan.

Douglas Hogg, the Foreign Office Minister, spoke by telephone to the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and visited the scene of the blast to confer with the Israeli charge d'affaires, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman. Mr Hogg said later: 'The charge is anxious we increase security and I was able to assure him.' The Scotland Yard diplomatic protection group and other agencies would now be stepping up security, he said.

Commander David Tucker, head of the Anti-Terrorist Squad, said that increased security measures had been taken after the Buenos Aires attack.

He said the grey Audi had been fitted with false number plates. The woman, who had a thin face, large plastic-rimmed glasses and light brown hair halfway down her back, and was carrying a Harrods shopping bag, would not have attracted much attention in well-heeled Kensington, he said. No security cameras captured the woman on videotape.

On the lawn at the side of the embassy lay the mangled, charred remains of the car which contained the bomb. A brick wall of a building next door to the embassy had been torn apart. In the street opposite, cars were covered with debris, windows were smashed, and tree branches lay on the road and embedded in cars.

Mr Rabin, in an American television interview, blamed Islamic terrorists determined to undermine the Arab-Israeli peace process. The Israeli Prime Minister, who on Monday signed the agreement with Jordan ending the 46-year-old state of war, said the 'world should wake up and realise the tremendous dangers' such groups posed. 'They have the infrastructure all over the world - in the United States, in Europe, in Latin America.'

The Board of Deputies of British Jews sent an angry fax to the Home Office pointing out that it had been warning of a growing threat for weeks, and warning urgently since the Buenos Aires attack eight days ago.

Michael Whine, defence director of the board, said it had asked for tighter security, including a ban on parking outside prominent Jewish buildings. Scotland Yard finally agreed to the parking ban after yesterday's explosion.

(Photograph and map omitted)