Text size

An Israeli man was killed in a shooting attack Thursday near the village of Yabed, in the northern West Bank. His body was found in a car adjacent to the village. The Magen David Adom crew that arrived at the scene pronounced him dead.

Police suspect that the man, Avner Maimon, 49, from Netanya, was an Israeli merchant who frequented Yabed, in Area B and under Israeli security control, to purchase coal.

Police had received several warnings in recent weeks on plans to murder the man, and he was informed of this. Despite the warnings, he arrived in the village on Thursday.

At approximately 7:40 P.M., the IDF and police received reports that a body had been found near the village. Police investigators are not yet sure if he was shot where he was found, at the entrance to the village, or if he was kidnapped, killed inside the village, and then placed in his car.

The death toll in the Jerusalem suicide bombing rose to 17 on Thursday when Tzipora Levy, 70, from Jerusalem died of wounds sustained in Wednesday's attack.

Twenty-seven of the more than 100 people wounded when a Palestinian suicide bomber, dressed as an ultra-Orthodox Jew, blew himself up on a bus in the capital, remained hospitalized Thursday, six of them in serious condition.

As of Thursday evening, doctors at the Abu Kabir forensic institute had identified 16 of the 17 people killed in the bombing. They are:- Sergeant Tamar Ben Eliyahu, 20, from Moshav Paran - Alexander Kazaris, 77, from Jerusalem- Ro`i Eliraz, 22, from Mevasseret Zion- Tzipora Pasakovich, 54 from Tzur Hadassah- Sultan Rene Malka, 67 from Jerusaelm- Elsa Cohen, 70, from Jerusalem- Zvi Cohen, 39 from the Kiryat Menachem neighborhood in Jerusalem - Yaffa Mualem, 65, from Jerusalem- Alan Bir, 47, from Jerusalem- Martin Tita, 75, Jerusalem- Ogenia Berman, 50, Jerusalem- Bat-El Ohana, 21, from Kiryat Atta- Yaniv Abayet, 22, from Herzliya- Anna Orgal, 55, from Jerusalem - Zipora Levy, 70, from Jerusalem- Bianca Shahrur, 63, from Jerusalem

The bomber boarded Egged bus No. 14 around 5.30 P.M. and a short while later, as the bus drove down bustling Jaffa Road near the Davidka Square, detonated his bomb, wrecking the vehicle and killing many of its passengers. Dozens of passersby were also hurt and surrounding store windows were blown out.

Israel Radio reported Thursday that a security guard was stationed at the bus stop where the bomber boarded the bus, but because the terrorist was dressed as an ultra-Orthodox Jew, the guard did not check him.

Izzadin al-Kassam, the military wing of Hamas, took responsibility for the attack, in announcements in the mosques of Gaza and on the Internet.

As rescue teams rushed to the scene, security forces blocked the exits from Jerusalem in an attempt to locate the bomber's assistants who had fled the scene. A police helicopter was employed to help in the search.

A preliminary investigation revealed that the bomber had boarded the bus at a stop a few meters from the site of the attack. He was dressed as an Haredi Jew. As the bus pulled off, the bomber, who was standing in the front of the vehicle, detonated his explosive belt. The bus careened forward and came to a halt outside the tall Clal building on Jaffa Road.

The bomber was identified as a resident of Hebron. Police are investigating whether he came to the city a few days before. He is believed to have been sent on his mission by a senior Hamas activist, Abdullah Kawasme, who is on Israel's wanted list.

At consultations between security heads last night, it was decided that Israel would step up its campaign to put an end to Hamas terror. Leaders of the organization will be liquidated or jailed and special efforts will be made to find those responsible in Hebron, security sources said.

Yisrael Peretz, an IDF veteran who is an amputee, said he saw the bus from his porch on Jaffa Road and leaped down two floors to the street to help. "The driver was trying to extricate himself. I jumped from my porch and went to help him. Together with another person, we managed to get him out through the window. He was in shock and couldn't talk," Peretz said.

"A woman passerby climbed into the bus and began pouring milk that she was carrying onto the fire in an attempt to put it out. Later someone else found a fire extinguisher on the bus and started to put out the flames."

A few minutes after the explosion, Zaka rescue and recovery teams arrived at the scene and began administering first aid, as ambulances from all over the city rushed to the spot.

Many of the casualties were moved into the commercial center of the Clal building where they received first aid.

Jerusalem Police Commander Mickey Levy said Wednesday evening that the terrorist had been carrying a huge bomb containing a great deal of metal fragments, causing massive injuries to the passengers. Doctors at the Abu Kabir forensic institute said it would be a prolonged process to identify the bodies because of the gravity of the injuries.

Mayor Uri Lupolianski, who came to the site, said he would put pressure on the government to speed up the building of the fence enveloping Jerusalem. The municipality set up emergency teams to deal with residents along the bus route, particularly in Beit Hakerem and Bak'a, the two neighborhoods which bus no. 14 serves.

Other teams were sent to Abu Kabir where relatives will have to identify the bodies.

The security forces had 58 warnings of terrorist attacks Wednesday but there was no specific warning of an attack in central Jerusalem. The Shin Bet security services had warned of a possible large-scale attack by Hamas following the attempt on the life of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi.

Hamas had ordered its activists to respond "as quickly as possible." However, it is believed that yesterday's attack had actually been planned earlier, but was later presented as revenge for the Rantisi assassination attempt.

Police Commissioner Shlomo Aharonishki estimated that it was unlikely an attack of this type could have been planned and executed in one day. "It is exactly at the time when talks are being held that organizations want to carry out bombings," he said.

Following Wednesday evening's IDF attack on Hamas militants in Gaza, Hamas spokesmen announced that the Jerusalem bombing had come in response to the attempted killing of Rantisi.

The announcement was broadcast by the muezzins in the mosques and later published on the Hamas' Internet site.

In Hebron, masked Hamas gunmen took over a local TV station and ordered the announcer to read a note in which they stated that the suicide bomber was Abdel Muati Shaban. He was described as an 18-year-old high school pupil from Hebron. IDF soldiers later raided his home.

In Jerusalem's Davidka Square Wednesday evening, dozens of right-wing activists gathered, shouting slogans against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. They blocked Jaffa Road to traffic, and when Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, wearing a flak-jacket, arrived at the scene, they greeted him with boos.

About 100 right-wing activists entered the nearby Mahane Yehuda market, looking for Arab workers. They were pushed back by police. Right-wing demonstrators also gathered at Zion Square, trying to hit Arabs who were on their way home to East Jerusalem. Police dispersed them.