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The Murder of Yasser Arafat: "Powerful" - The Times of London

Wednesday, 1 September 2004

Suicide attacks return

BUS BOMBS ROCK ISRAEL 
16 killed, 80 hurt in 2 attacks
BY MATTHEW KALMAN IN RAMALLAH, WEST BANK AND BILL HUTCHINSON IN NEW YORK

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2004

PALESTINIAN terrorists killed 16 commuters in Israel yesterday in twin suicide bus bombings that could have spilled more blood had it not been for a heroic bus driver. The first bomb detonated at 3 p.m. on a No. 6 bus in the bustling southern town of Beersheba - near the West Bank city of Hebron, where the bombers are believed to have come from. As the bus exploded in flames, passengers, including a 3-year-old boy, died in their seats.

Bus driver Yaakov Cohen - traveling right behind - got a sickening feeling he was next. "I saw the first explosion and thought, 'My God, I've got to get out of here.' " He swerved around the burning bus and jolted to a stop. "I opened the doors and most of my passengers got off the bus," Cohen said. "Then I felt the explosion. I don't know why I thought to open the doors, but at least some of the people were able to escape."

As for the others, he said, "I couldn't cope with the sight. "It was terrible, terrible. . . . I don't want to describe what I saw," said Cohen, who was among 80 people injured in the attacks.

The Hamas terror group claimed responsibility for the blasts. None of the passengers who boarded Cohen's bus had looked suspicious, he said. "Believe me, I look and check. It is very hard to identify a bomber. . . . I don't know how anyone can," he said.

The suicide bombings - which ended nearly six months without such an attack in Israel and were the deadliest in nearly a year - also killed the two men, who wore explosive belts under their clothes. Earlier yesterday, Israeli soldiers at a Gaza border checkpoint nabbed a would-be suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt hidden in his underwear.

Hamas said in a statement the bus bombings were retaliation for the assassinations this year of two leaders, Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi. The last suicide bombing in Israel killed 11 people March 14 in the port city of Ashdod. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the latest violence would not derail plans to pull out of the Gaza Strip or part of the West Bank, nor would it stop the controversial security fence being built around its borders. "Israel will keep fighting terror with all its might," Sharon said.

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