Israelis in fear of car bombs shoot motorist

PATRICK COCKBURN

Jerusalem

The time and place of the accident could not have been worse. Driving in French Hill, a suburb of Jerusalem, Ahmed Abdel Hamida, a Palestinian- American, went into a skid and crashed into a bus queue, killing an Israeli woman. Bystanders, fearing they were victims of another suicide attack, shot Mr Hamida dead as he got out of his car.

As his body lay on the road soldiers forced crowds back, suspecting that the crumpled black Fiat beside the bus stop contained a bomb. Only as police examined the skid marks on the wet road did they realise that what seems to have been a routine, if tragic, accident had been misinterpreted as a third attack by suicide bombers.

The incident underlined the tensions in Israel on the day after 25 people were killed in two attacks in Jerusalem and the coastal city of Ashkelon.

Immediately after the accident Israeli settlers, who use the bus stop to travel to the West Bank, pursued and beat some passing Palestinian youths.

Watched by hundreds of ultra-orthodox Jews who live in the neighbourhood, police sealed off part of north Jerusalem. A police spokesman said that Mr Hamida, who lived in California, was staying with friends in the nearby city of Ramallah, now under Palestinian control, where he had hired the Fiat Uno seven days before.

About 50 yards from the bus stop the skid marks begin as if he had accelerated to beat the lights at a nearby cross-roads and his car had then gone out of control. Many Israelis, particularly in this section of Jerusalem, carry weapons and are ready to use them. Police were last night questioning the men who opened fire.

Shimon Peres, the Israeli Prime Minister, yesterday told the Israeli parliament: "We will not stop the peace process, but we will take all fitting means to strike at the terrorists, any place they may be."

The Islamic organisation Hamas, which claimed responsibility for the suicide bombings, says the attacks were in revenge for the assassination of its chief bomb-maker, Yahyah Ayyash.

Mosse Weissfish, who said he would have been in the bus queue if he had not stopped to talk to someone in a nearby supermarket, said: "I expected there would be attacks but not until after the elections." Mr Weissfish is from New York. Like many settlers, he assumed Hamas, which claimed responsibility for the weekend bombs, is hand-in-glove with Yasser Arafat, head of the PLO.

Most of his anger was directed at Mr Peres, whom he called "the worst leader of the Jews in 4,000 years". Mr Weissfish condemned the Prime Minister for not ending talks with the Palestinians.

Detestation of Mr Peres is common among settlers and the right, but fear of being blamed for setting the stage for the assassination in November of Yitzhak Rabin has silenced them for the past few months.

The bombs on Sunday have changed all that. A poll held afterwards gave Mr Peres a lead over Binyamin Netanyahu, the Likud opposition leader, of 3 points, down from 16. The elections are on 29 May.

There were more signs of the changing mood in Israel in the parking lot where bus Number 18 had been blown up on Sunday, killing 24 passengers and wounding 41. Within hours it had been turned into a shrine of the right, mimicking the scene at the back of Tel Aviv town hall in the days after the murder of Rabin, who was portrayed as a martyr of the left.

There were thousands of candles, screens with anti-government messages and a large sign reading: "Goodbye, Friends". This, pointed out Haim Levin, a religious Jew, was a copy of the slogan "Goodbye, Friend", coined by President Bill Clinton after the death of Rabin, and used as a rallying- cry by his supporters ever since.

Mr Levin, a social worker, tried to describe the mood after the bombs. "People are confused and it might go either way. Jerusalem is full of religious Jews and they don't like Peres anyway. People think differently in Tel Aviv. But people are dying on the streets and somebody must be responsible." He said the only way for Israelis to be safe was to build a Berlin wall around themselves.

Mr Peres is doing everything he can to reduce their sense of vulnerability. Routes from the West Bank and Gaza have been closed, preventing tens of thousands of Palestinian workers from entering Israel. Given the length of the so-called Green Line separating Israel from the occupied territories, this is a dubious contribution to security.

Nevertheless, the roads could remain closed until the election,devastating the Palestinian economy. Mr Peres and the Labour Party can probably still win the election if there are no more suicide bombs. He is demanding that Mr Arafat destroy the infrastructure of Hamas in Gaza, where 60 of its activists were arrested yesterday.

Leading article, page 14

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

Front-End Developer (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C#, GUI)

£55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...

Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?