19 more kids dead on bus today: On Hamas and the meaning of “occupation”

June 18, 2002


[Note by Tom Gross]

Hamas have claimed responsibility for this morning's suicide bus bombing in Jerusalem, that killed 19 people, including many schoolchildren, and wounded over 50 other Israelis, some severely.

Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, who visited the scene after the attack, walked past a row of bodies and said: "The terrible sights we have seen here are stronger than any words. It is interesting to know what kind of Palestinian state they mean."

The tendency in the media is to presume that the attack comes as a reaction to Israel's "occupation" of the West Bank and Gaza. This is certainly the way the issue is presented by Palestinian spokespeople such as Saeb Erekat, and others, including Lebanon's Prime Minister on the BBC this morning.

It is therefore important to be aware of the Hamas' own definition of "occupation".

Following are extracts from an interview from Arafat-controlled Gaza given to The Daily Mirror (UK) by Hamas overall leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, on May 13, 2002 in which he seeks to justify attacks on Israeli civilians and in which he acknowledges clearly that Hamas' goal is not the end of "occupation" as it is generally understood, but the replacement of Israel with an Islamic state:

* "Suicide bombings are military operations against the occupiers of our land. To speak of a ceasefire is to ask the victim to stop defending himself. We are not afraid to die and we will win in the end."

* "Islam is against the killing of all civilians. But Israelis are not civilians they have massacred Palestinians. I feel pain when children are killed in our military operations."

* "The Israelis killed by Hamas in cafes and bars are military people. They are either in the army or are reservists. They have worn army clothes. Just because they are dressed in casual clothing when they go out doesn't mean they are civilians."

* "If you lost 1 million dollars then regained 100,000 dollars would you think that was enough? We will continue our fight until Israel is an Islamic state."

* "It [9/11] was a terrible crime against civilians. You cannot compare that atrocious act with our martyrdom operations. Global Zionists are responsible. Bin laden is a victim but also a hero now."

There are countless other statements by Hamas leaders which reiterate this same view.

Instead of allowing Saeb Erekat and other Arafatist spokespersons to try and justify the wanton murder of schoolchildren on a so-called "occupation" which Israel never wanted, the media should properly present the true Hamas agenda. They should explain that Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority is complicit in having allowed it to flourish under its watch, and in many ways has encouraged it to grow. The media should not fall into the trap of laying responsibility for atrocities such as today's attack, on Israel's self-defensive presence in the West Bank and Gaza.

-- Tom Gross



19 killed, 50 injured in suicide bombing on Jerusalem bus
By Jonathan Lis, Anshel Pfeffer and Haim Shadmi, Ha'aretz Correspondents and Ha'aretz Service and Agencies
June 18, 2002

At least 19 people were killed and 50 injured Tuesday morning when a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus full of passengers, most of them high school students, in southern Jerusalem. Five of the wounded were in serious condition.

The explosion took place around 8 A.M. near the Pat Junction on Egged bus line 32A from the neighborhood of Gilo. The blast ripped through the bus, leaving it a charred, mangled hulk at the side of the road.

The wounded were taken to three Jerusalem hospitals for treatment: Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem; Hadassah University Hospital, Mt. Scopus; and Sha'are Zedek Medical Center.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack in an official statement broadcast on the militant movement's television station. It said that the bomber was Muhammad Haza el-Rol, a 22-year-old student at al-Najah University in the West Bank city of Nablus, and that he came from the Jenin area.

He had apparently disappeared about three days ago. His father told Reuters from his home in the al-Fara refugee camp, near Nablus, that he was "very happy" to hear that his son was the bomber.

Shalom Sabag was driving in front of the red-and-white Egged commuter bus that had been plying its route through southern Jerusalem to the city's central bus station during the morning rush hour.

"I stopped the car and ran to the bus. I was the first person to get on the bus and take people off," Sabag told Reuters.

"The bodies were piled up near the door of the bus on the right side. He didn't wait to blow up - he blew up straight away. I took off the bodies of a two girls and a man.

Ruth Elmaliach, a teacher at a high school near the scene of the explosion, said she was in her car, waiting for the light to change at the junction, when the explosion went off.

"I'm sure our students were on the bus. I saw how the bus blew up...The bus is always packed at this hour...now we're checking to see if all the students have arrived but I'm afraid some of them have not," Elmaliach told Israel Radio.

Shlomi Calderon, a witness to the bombing, told Army Radio, "the bus left the stop and as soon as it entered traffic there was a very large explosion and all the parts [of the bus] flew everywhere. There was complete shock in the area. It was horrible, horrible. All of the bus' parts flew everywhere in a radius of 150 meters."


The bombing comes on the eve of President George W. Bush's much-anticipated address on the Mideast, in which he is widely expected to lay out a framework on how to create an independent Palestinian state with a constitution and a unified security force.

Bush's vision, which could include a recommendation for a provisional Palestinian state with temporary borders and limited sovereignty, may be announced as early as Tuesday or Wednesday.

Jerusalem police were still on high alert Tuesday for terror attacks in Jerusalem. Security forces were on high alert throughout the capital the previous night, after receiving a specific warning that a suicide bomber was planning to carry out an attack in the capital.

Police had set up roadblocks in various parts of the city, and a police helicopter had been used in an attempt to locate the bomber.

"There are more warnings," Jerusalem district Police Chief Mickey Levy told reporters at the scene of the bombing. "We are deployed and are still searching for the suspects."

Levy said that before Tuesday's blast, police had received what he called a "hot warning" that a bombing was about to take place in Jerusalem.

"Sometimes we succeed in locating the bomber and sometimes unfortunately we don't succeed in neutralising the bomber...The warning yesterday (Monday) was general. It was not specific," Levy said.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.