Seven killed in Hebrew University bombing

 

Seven people were killed and dozens more were injured by a bomb placed by Hamas in a cafeteria at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem yesterday at lunchtime. Among the victims were Jews, Arabs and numerous overseas students, including at least one American fatality, writes David Horovitz in Jerusalem.

A dozen people were in serious condition in Jerusalem hospitals last night, among them a woman with a nail deep in her throat, and a male student from France, conscious, with shrapnel in his heart. Police said the casualty figures were particularly high because the cafeteria - at a student centre named for donor Frank Sinatra at the heart of the campus - was a closed room with low ceilings, crowded with diners, and the explosive device was large and packed with screws and nails.

Even as burned and bleeding casualties were being evacuated from the bomb scene, students were expressing bafflement as to why the university, which has more than 4,000 Arabs and 1,500 overseas students among the 23,000 on campus, had been targeted. "I simply cannot conceive of how this might be legitimised," Mr Yassin Mohammad, a first-year communications student, said.

"There's no guns in here, no soldiers in here, no policemen in here," Mr Alistair Goldrein (19), from Liverpool, who was outside the cafeteria when the bomb exploded, added. "Just young people . . . eating."

The Hamas leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, said the bombing was revenge for last week's Israeli air strike in Gaza City, in which the Hamas military commander and more than a dozen civilians were killed.

But a Hamas spokesman, Mr Mohammad al-Rantisi, said his movement would continue its attacks on Israelis "until the Jews leave Palestine". In Gaza City last night, some locals came out into the streets to celebrate the bombing.

President Bush castigated the "killers who hate the thought of peace".

The Palestinian Authority said it "absolutely condemns" the attack, which, it said, breached humane and moral norms and harmed the Palestinian image. However, it also said the Israeli government was "responsible for this cycle of terror".

Aides to Israel's Prime Minister Mr Ariel Sharon retorted that PA President Yasser Arafat was "continuing to encourage terrorism," and said that, only yesterday, the army had found 300 kilos of explosives in the Jenin offices of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

The aides vowed that Israel would retaliate against Hamas "within hours".

The Israeli army has been deployed in much of the West Bank since two suicide bombings in Jerusalem in mid-June, enforcing closures and curfews, but had been slightly easing its restrictions. There was some speculation here last night that the government might now order retaliatory attacks against Hamas political leaders.

And in what officials say are new efforts at deterrence, moves are afoot to deport from the West Bank to Gaza one or two relatives of the Hamas gunmen who carried out an attack near the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel two weeks ago, and to confiscate the possessions of relatives of attackers.

The bombing broke bitter new ground in this escalating 22-month intifada conflict; Israeli universities had not previously been targeted. Israeli police are now saying that nowhere that people gather in even small crowds should be considered immune, and security is even being stepped up at hospitals.

The head of the Israeli security service warned on Tuesday that there were 60 separate intelligence tip-offs about imminent bombings.