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Monday, 11 March, 2002, 18:12 GMT
Fear on the streets of Jerusalem
Aftermath of Moments cafe bombing
Saturday night horror - the aftermath of cafe bombing
Freelance journalist Inigo Gilmore was just about to walk into Moments cafe in west Jerusalem when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in the midst of the Saturday night crowd, killing 10 people and injuring more than 50 others.

Jewish residents of Jerusalem have never known anything like it.

Such is the besieged mentality now gripping their part of the city, people are almost afraid to take the short walk to the local shop.

And the once simple choice of selecting a bar or restaurant for a night out has become the subject of intense debate.

The bodies were flying around me and I hit the wall like a rocket. It is a miracle I got out alive

Eldad Doronstein

This grim scenario - which first manifested itself some months ago - has become more deeply entrenched in recent weeks, indeed days, as unexpected and often horrendous death has cast a lengthening shadow of fear over city life.

In the streets, pedestrians glance nervously about them, fearing that sudden death lurks on every corner.

Every car, every bag and every young Arab man has become the focus of suspicion and dread for Jerusalem's Jewish residents.

Close call

The latest suicide bombing on Saturday night, which left 11 dead and scores injured, has dealt another painful blow to the city's fast dwindling morale.

The cafes were already near empty and the restaurants virtually bereft of business. Then this.

Inside of Moment cafe after the suicide bomb attack
The bombed cafe was not far from Ariel Sharon's home
My friend Eldad Doronstein is nursing a small shrapnel wound to his leg - but it could have been so much worse.

He was in the Moment cafe on Saturday night when the young Palestinian bomber walked inside, stepped up near the crowded bar and detonated the explosive belt strapped to his body.

Eldad had invited me to meet him at the bar, a popular and lively spot on Saturdays, as we have done on previous occasions.

I had pulled up in my car just 30 metres from the entrance when the explosion ripped through its interior, triggering scenes of unimaginable carnage and chaos.


It looked as if someone had taken a hose and sprayed the floor with blood

Rushing up to the bar I watched in disbelief as distraught young men and women picked their way through the shattered bar stools, discarded clothing and shoes to help the mutilated victims.

Stepping over bodies

All around there were spine-chilling screams of agony and terror. Fragments of human limbs and lumps of charred flesh were stuck to the walls and ceiling.
Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Gaza, destroyed in Israeli raids
Israeli wasted no time in striking back after the attack

It looked as if someone had taken a hose and sprayed the floor with blood.

Eldad, I feared, was among the victims. But as it turned out, he had escaped almost without a scratch.

The people standing next to him had been blown to pieces, perhaps absorbing the force of the blast.

"The bodies were flying around me and I hit the wall like a rocket. It is a miracle I got out alive, a real miracle," he said.

"I was stepping over the bloody bodies to get out. My daughter had warned me not to come here when it was really busy and she was right."

Many people, myself included, had figured that the bar was in a safe location - just one street away from the Prime Minister's residence.

Mounting anxiety

After all there are always border policemen on the next corner, were there not?

Jerusalem street scene
People fear that few places are safe in the current climate
But we should have known better. As we have seen in the past, there is little the security forces have been able to do to stop such appalling atrocities.

So it is hardly surprising that this latest horrific attack - and the failure to prevent it - has added yet another heavy and suffocating layer of anxiety.

It is difficult now to know where to go out, or even if you want to.

Among my friends and media colleagues the sentiment appears to be that restaurants in Arab areas of Jerusalem may be a safer bet. But for how long?

Stained image

"What about Jewish extremists?" one friend suggested, following reports of two bombings by extremists at Palestinian schools. "Maybe they will target those places soon."

The inhabitants...are paying a terrible human price for the murderous politics waged by both sides

David Ben-Simon

As Israelis wonder out loud how much worse it can get, Daniel Ben-Simon - writing in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz - captured the mood of despondency and fear.

"Every time Israel strikes the Palestinians, the Jews of the city lock themselves into their homes so as not to number among the victims of the wave of terror attacks, which come mostly as a response.

"The inhabitants...are paying a terrible human price for the murderous politics waged by both sides over the past year of conflict.

"The blood of the human price has also stained the image of the capital as a joint city of two peoples."

See also:

10 Mar 02 | Middle East
Suicide attack hits Jerusalem cafe
08 Mar 02 | Middle East
In pictures: Mid-East fire and fury
16 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
11 Mar 02 | Middle East
Israel lifts Arafat travel ban
10 Mar 02 | Americas
Cheney seeks Mid-East support
05 Mar 02 | Middle East
Head to head: Mid-East violence surges
03 Mar 02 | Middle East
Israel on the defensive
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