A BOMB went off inside a crowded bus on one of Israel's most solemn days of remembrance yesterday, killing five Israelis and the Palestinian suicide bomber.
The explosion at the bus station in Hadera, near Tel Aviv, was the second attack in a week within Israel proper; seven died in the first at Afula last Wednesday. Both were apparently acts of revenge for February's Hebron mosque massacre, in which 30 Palestinians died.
Witnesses to the carnage told how they had to step over the body of a small boy to get out off the bus. 'There were pieces of flesh and blood around me,' one said. 'We couldn't get the doors open. We had to go out through the windows.'
The national police chief, Rafi Peled, said the dead Palestinian belonged to the Izzidin al-Qassem brigades, the armed wing of the
Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas. Crowds of angry Israelis chanted 'Death to the Arabs' after the blast.
The Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was quick to say the attack would not divert him from the search for peace. 'There are those who say the peace talks have to be stopped. What this will lead to is more elements joining in the terror.' The Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, made the same point: 'All the alternatives are
Israeli officials concede privately that such attacks, while painful, do not threaten state security. It was the 17,000 who had died in the fight to protect that security, indeed the existence of the state against the armies of Israel's enemies, who were traditionally being commemorated yesterday, the day before celebrations marking Independence Day.
Israeli officials also criticised the PLO chairman, Yasser Arafat, for reluctance to condemn the killing of civilians at Afula. Yesterday, however, addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Mr Arafat called the latest bombing a 'regrettable attack on innocent people aimed at undermining the peace process'. He said Israeli procrastination during eight months of negotiations on the implementation of the PLO-Israel accord had played into the hands of extremists.
In London, the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, said the bombing displayed 'a shocking contempt for the values of civilisation'.
In Amman, King Hussein of Jordan expressed dismay that 'the spirit that shaped the peace accord has been dampened by what we have seen in the way of lack of progress on the one hand and the resulting very tragic events that have been happening and have cost a lot of lives so far'.
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