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Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 19:38 GMT 20:38 UK
Blow to Israel's cosmopolitan heart
Bomb damaged windows on Allenby Street
The blast shattered the windows of music stores and cafes
If Jerusalem is the Holy City, a religious centre steeped in thousands of years of history, then Tel Aviv, less than a century old, is the vibrant heart of modern Israel.

Home to over a third of Israel's population it is a cosmopolitan city that mixes heavyweight finance and business with a fast paced entertainment scene.


The bus exploded. It kept moving slowly like it was driven by a ghost, and then crashed into the curb and stopped

Andres Sevilla, Witness
At the heart of the city's nightlife lies Allenby Street, a busy street teeming with busy cafes and restaurants.

It was here on Thursday that a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up on board a crowded bus, killing five people and injuring about 50 others.

Witnesses said the bus exploded just moments after picking up passengers at the bus stop on the tree-lined boulevard.

Ghostly spectre

The shrapnel-studded bomb killed the driver at the wheel, leaving the smoking vehicle to coast to a halt.

"The bus exploded. It kept moving slowly like it was driven by a ghost, and then crashed into the curb and stopped," said Andres Sevilla, a 27-year-old Argentine cleaning worker.

Injured man being helped away
Those that could fled the smoking bus

The force of the blast left torn bodies inside the bus and on the street.

"The driver was sitting in his seat and his hands were on the window. He was dead. He was all blackened," said Zohara Pillo a passer-by who helped some of the wounded.

Witnesses said blood poured down the front steps of the bus, creating a stream that trailed about 10 metres (33 feet) downhill.

Crawling away

Those that could leapt from the shattered windows of the bus, screaming, burnt and covered in blood.

"I heard a massive blast. I ran outside where customers were eating lunch. I saw people escaping from the bus, jumping out of the windows covered in blood," said cafe owner Ofer Menachem.


All he did was look around all the time - right, left, up, down. He had a very strange look on his face

Mazal, witness talking of the suspected bomber

"I saw soldiers and women covered in blood shouting and screaming."

Witnesses said the victims tried to run or crawl away. One woman told Israel Radio people came out of the bus "blackened like sticks of charcoal".

"People were yelling 'take us out of here'," said Herzl Ben-Moshe, another witness to the carnage.

Burnt bodies

Others were not even able to do that. One witness said he saw several people lying on the floor of the bus, including one man whose legs had been blown off.

Tiran Soloman, the owner of nearby Allenby's Cafe, ran to help pull people off the bus.

An old man being treated by paramedics
The victims were cut and burnt

"Some were lying on their seats, completely burned, and in agony," he said.

Shrapnel from the bomb pierced the windows of nearby bookshops and music stores.

One woman, named only as Mazal, which means "luck" in Hebrew told Israeli TV that she had left the bus just seconds before the blast.

Lucky escape

She remembers a man she believes was the bomber as wearing a buttoned-up black blazer and jeans and standing near the door.

"The blazer was buttoned up and I thought: 'In this heat'?"

"All he did was look around all the time - right, left, up, down. He had a very strange look on his face."

The horrific attack was a blow to the "heart and soul" of cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, one bookshop owner said.

Even the victims themselves provided a microcosm of the city's international flavour.

In the aftermath elderly passengers were screaming in Russian, while a Filipino woman lay on the ground and a French tourist ran for safety.

And a religious Jew swayed in prayer in the back of an ambulance.


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19 Sep 02 | Middle East
18 Sep 02 | Middle East
17 Sep 02 | Middle East
05 Sep 02 | Middle East
10 Sep 02 | Middle East
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