Mayhem at the Market: Netanyahu Blames Arafat for the Carnage. but Is Anyone Really in Control of the Terror Anymore?

By Contreas, Joseph | Newsweek, August 11, 1997 | Go to article overview

Mayhem at the Market: Netanyahu Blames Arafat for the Carnage. but Is Anyone Really in Control of the Terror Anymore?


Contreas, Joseph, Newsweek


West Jerusalem's busiest outdoor market looked like a summer garden party gone hideously wrong. Streams of blood trickled past heaps of ripe vegetables. Rescue workers scraped away the bright pulp of smashed watermelons as they searched for the bomb victims. Green peppers were strewn among toys and shoes on the stone pavement. The stench of blood and soot hung in the air--together with the smell of freshly backed bread. The bombings kills 15 people in all, and wounded more than 170. Jeeploads of Israeli soldiers rushed to the market to join the rescue effort; some rushed back out again with heaving stomachs and ashen faces, temporarily overcome by the carnage.

By the end of the week no one yet knew who the two suicide bombers were--or, more important, who had sent them. That, of course, makes the terror even harder to stop. Counterterrorism experts speculate that the attack was prompted by the Israelis' earlier announcement that they were ready to reopen peace talks with the Palestinians. (Those negotiations were broken off by Yasir Arafat in March after construction began on a controversial Jewish housing settlement on the outskirts of tradionally Arab East Jerusalem.) But the marketplace explosion came only 48 hours after the announcement. To plan and carry out a major terrorist attack on such short notice is almost unheard of. By comparison, after Yitzhak Rabin's historic 1993 handshake with Palestinain leader Yasir Arafat, Palestinian radicals needed seven months of preparation to stage the first-ever suicide bombing inside Israel.

The marketplace massacre was the worst bombing since Netanyahu, promising an end to such mayhem, came to power. The prime minister didn't hesitate to lay the blame on Arafat.

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