City attack shatters the illusion of security

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The nightmare returned to Israel's city centres yesterday, when what appeared to be two suicide bombers working together struck in the heart of Tel Aviv. The illusion of security, which Israel enjoyed for more than three weeks without an attack, is gone now. That illusion had brought Israelis crowding back into restaurants and cafés late into the night. Last night, the crowds were cut down by the suicide bombers.

The nightmare returned to Israel's city centres yesterday, when what appeared to be two suicide bombers working together struck in the heart of Tel Aviv. The illusion of security, which Israel enjoyed for more than three weeks without an attack, is gone now. That illusion had brought Israelis crowding back into restaurants and cafés late into the night. Last night, the crowds were cut down by the suicide bombers.

At least three people were killed besides the bombers, according to the Israeli police, and more than 30 were wounded. Witnesses described scenes of horror, where only moments before had been the bustle of a lively street scene.

Dutu Raduian, a foreign worker from Romania who lives near the scene of the bombings, said he heard an explosion, and the lights in his apartment went out.

"It was horrible," he said, of the scene in the street, "dead people were everywhere and the injured were screaming."

The two explosions took place within 50ft of each other, according to witnesses. Neve Shannan street, where the bombers struck, is in a seedy area of Tel Aviv. The bombs went off outside a busy cafe.

A little way up the street is a pornographic cinema, and the area is full of street stalls. It is an area of central Tel Aviv where many foreign workers like Mr Raduian live and at least one of those killed last night was a foreigner, according to Israeli radio.

Along with the illusion of security, another illusion was shattered yesterday: the illusion that Ariel Sharon's policy of reoccupying West Bank towns and putting a million Palestinians under 24-hour curfew has stopped the militants getting through.

For the second day in a row, they made it through Israel's defences. Yesterday's attack came hours after the funerals of eight Israeli settlers killed in an ambush on a bus on Tuesday. That was a heavy blow, but it took place at a settlement deep inside the West Bank. Yesterday's bombings will hit Israel harder, because the militants penetrated to the heart of a city deep inside Israel.

The Israelis, as ever, rounded on Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority, accusing them of not doing enough to stop suicide bombing and other attacks by militants. But Palestinian officials can protest with justification that there is little they can do with the entire West Bank under full control of the Israeli military.

Full details of what had happened were sketchy last night. Some reports suggested one of the two explosions may not have been a suicide bomber, but a hidden bomb of some sort. Witnesses described seeing at least one bomber detonate explosives attached to his body.

The most chilling report of all was unconfirmed – that two more suicide bombers were still at large, roaming the streets of Tel Aviv.

What remains to be seen is what the Israeli government can now do in retaliation. With all the towns and cities of the West Bank under Israeli military occupation, Mr Sharon's government appears to be running out of options.

Comments