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16 Murdered in Double Terror Attack in Be´er Sheva

Double bus bombings have rocked the southern town of Be'er Sheva, killing 16 - and wounding over 100, including close to 15 seriously. Police are on high alert nationwide.
First Publish: 9/1/2004, 12:49 AM / Last Update: 8/31/2004, 3:18 PM

The twin bus bombs were detonated at around 2:55 P.M. on Rager Boulevard, near Be'er Sheva's City Hall. The buses were approximately 100 meters apart when suicide terrorists detonated their explosives.

Over 100 people were evacuated to Soroka Hospital, including 23 with moderate wounds.

Arutz-7 correspondent Moshe Priel spoke with Yaakov, the driver of the number 12 bus, which was targeted in the second blast. He described the horror he and his passengers experienced:

“I was idling at the intersection, parallel to the second bus as an explosion went off inside it. I immediately realized that it was a bomb and decided to get far away from the area. I didn’t succeed in driving the bus very far when all of the sudden all the passengers started yelling ‘Open the doors! Open the doors!’ I didn’t know why but opened the doors nevertheless. I think about ten passengers were able to escape before there was a horrible explosion – something impossible to describe – God help us. The older passengers weren’t able to escape in time and they are the ones who were wounded. I got off easy with scratches from the shattered glass and ringing in my ears.”

Priel also spoke to Nissim Vaknin, who was sitting behind the driver of the #6 bus, one of the terrorists was dressed like a woman. “I was sitting in the seat near the driver, and right near me a woman sat down who I suspected was a terrorist dressed like a woman," said Vaknin. "At a certain point I left my seat and moved toward the back of the bus. The explosion was near the front door and the whole bus filled with soot, smoke, screaming and yelling. I picked up a young girl in my arms who was shrieking – ran to the front of the bus, yelling to the driver to ‘open the door.’ I glanced at where I had been sitting and saw the ‘woman’ who sat down near me – torn to pieces.”

Hamas claimed responsibility for the double attack, saying it was a response to the recent wave of immigration to Israel. Be'er Sheva is home to a large number of new immigrants.

Saeb Erekat of the PA issued a condemnation of the mass murder, and called upon the international community to take an active role in ensuring that Israel withdraw from Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

Chairman of the National Union party MK Tzvi Hendel responded to today’s terror attacks accusing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of “undeniable responsibility for this bloodbath.”

Hendel added: “The Prime Minister encourages terrorists to murder more and more Jews with the obsessive pursuit of his expulsion plan.”

National Religious Party chairman Effie Eitam called upon Prime Minister Sharon to turn all his energy away from his disengagement plan and toward a resolved war on terror. Eitam said: “Instead of demonstrating his determination to uproot thousands of Jews from their homes, which will merely encourage further terror while tearing apart the nation and destabilizing the government, the Prime Minister must form a stable nationalist government that will fight terrorism to the death and put an end to the Palestinian dream that through terrorism they will be able to chase out the IDF and subdue the State of Israel.”

MK Gila Finkelstein (NRP) said: "I suspect this is just the beginning of the joyous celebrations of the terrorists. Today they begin their count-down to the withdrawal plan."

Welfare Minister Zevulun Orlev said: “The harsh attacks have brought us down to earth - the painful situation, the illusion of quiet, and the disengagement are blowing up in our face. Instead of urging the IDF to uproot [Jews from Judea, Samaria and Gaza], the order should be given to intensify and continue the war against terrorism.”

Minister of Public Security Tzachi HaNegbi told reporters that the attack proved the effectiveness of the security fence. HaNegbi said that wherever the fence had been completed – no attacks take place, while sections where the fence is not yet operation – allow attacks are carried out. “The state will do all it can to complete the fence and in that way save lives,” said HaNegbi.

HaNegbi also said he intends to add Be’er Sheva to the list of cities that have security guards stationed on their public buses. Currently, those cities include Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa.

MK Roni Brizon (Shinui) called for Israel to respond to the double-terror attack by renewing negotiations with the PA. “This tragic event proves once again that no disengagement or security fence will solve the problem,” said Brizon. “There is no choice but to find a way, together with the Palestinian leadership, to a solution once and for all to this gruesome conflict.”

Earlier today, IDF soldiers caught an Arab terrorist carrying an explosives belt sewn into his underwear trying to cross into Israel's pre-1967 borders from Gaza, which is 25 miles from Be'er Sheva.

Israel Police have announced a heightened alert nationwide following the Be'er Sheva attacks. This was the first bus attack in Israel in over six months. Many officials are citing the lack of a counter-terrorism partition fence in the south.

This evening, IDF troops raided the Hebron home of Ahmed al-Kawasmawas - one of the Hamas terrorists who carried out the attack.

A third blast at approximately 3:10 PM was originally reported to have been a third terrorist explosion. It caused much panic in the city, until it turned out to be a false alarm some 15 minutes later.

The Absorption Ministry has announced the activation of a special multi-lingual hotline to assist Be'er Sheva's new immigrant community: 12-55-08-1010