Did suicide bombs kill peace plan too

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JERUSALEM — "Linkage" is once again likely to become a watchword in Mideast diplomacy.

In the past, the term designated Israeli-Palestinian coordination or interdependence in the peace process.

But in the wake of this week's double suicide bombing in Jerusalem, the Israeli government intends to make clear that any new substantive efforts at peace must be linked to Palestinian efforts to stop terrorism.

That was the message that came from an emergency Inner Cabinet meeting Wednesday night, seven hours after two bombs ripped through Jerusalem's colorful Mahane Yehuda market, slaughtering at least 13 lunchtime shoppers and wounding at least 157.

When asked if Israeli-Palestinian negotiations would resume as planned, government spokesman Shai Bazak said, "No, for the moment."

Israel has determined that "in order for it to each other and set off their explosives one after the other, according to an initial inquiry. At least 157 people, including several Arab workers, were injured. The names of the victims were not immediately available.

David Boneh, a butcher in his 40s, said the attack came as a complete shock.

"Last winter, when all the bombs were going off, I expected something to happen all the time," he said.

"Things in Jerusalem have been quiet for over a year, and I'd stopped worrying," he added, referring to a wave of bombings that rocked the country in February and March 1996.

This week's attack came on the eve of a planned trip by Dennis Ross, U.S. special Middle East coordinator.

Ross' mission, intended to jump-start the moribund peace process, was postponed "for an appropriate period of mourning," President Clinton announced at the White House on Wednesday.

The terrorist attack is the first to strike the center of Israel in over four months. The fundamentalist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad both claimed responsibility for the bombings.

On March 21, a suicide bomber struck a Tel Aviv cafe, killing three Israelis. Hamas was responsible for that attack.

The March strike, along with the building of a Jewish housing project in southeastern Jerusalem, led to a virtual freeze in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

After months of inaction, a burst of diplomatic activity was seen in the region over the past week, including the first high-level meetings between Israelis and Palestinians in months.

And unlike his other recent trips, which proved unsuccessful, this time Ross was expected to arrive armed with a detailed American proposal designed to jump-start the stalled negotiations.

Whether that proposal — said to include a suspension of new construction by Israel in disputed areas and closer security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority — would have produced any results is a question no one is likely to answer soon.

Israeli officials said after Wednesday's attack that no talks can occur until Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat takes concrete action to wipe out the terrorist infrastructure in the autonomous region.

All focus on negotiations quickly dissipated Wednesday as the collective mourning began.

Ambulances had to contend with heavy traffic to reach the injured and dead, several of whom remained in grave or serious condition on Wednesday evening.

Rescue crews had to make their way through thousands of people, many of whom appeared dazed and in shock. Police and soldiers assisted ambulance crews, who searched through the wreckage for casualties.

Much of the activity revolved around a popular butcher store that was destroyed by the blast.

Many of the burned and bleeding victims had been in the store or just outside it, shopping for fruits and vegetables.

An hour later, when the last victims had been rushed to area hospitals, security personnel emptied trash cans in search of other, unexploded bombs.

At the same time, gloved Orthodox men from a special burial society and army medics combed the market for scattered body parts. Jewish law stipulates that all body parts must be buried.

Standing just outside their shops or behind police barricades, those who escaped injury said they were grateful to be alive.

"I heard two explosions, one after the other, and if I'd been standing outside, like I usually am, and not by the refrigerator, I would have been killed," said Boneh, whose nearby butcher shop was rocked by the blasts.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing the two suicide attackers nod to each other shortly before they detonated their bombs.

Meir Inbar, a 48-year-old shopper, said he had come to the market that afternoon "specifically to avoid a terror attack."

He said he had heard on the previous evening's news the army chief of staff say he feared an increase in terrorist attacks because of increased cooperation between the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas organization and the Palestinian Authority.

"So instead of shopping in the shuk [market] at night, when the prices are lower, I came now, when I thought it would be less crowded."

Inbar said that when the blast occurred, "I saw a woman thrown into the air and then saw her fall to the ground. There was a fire, then smoke everywhere. It was horrible."

Inbar, a former career army officer, lashed out at both the Likud government and the Israel Defense Force.

"I knew that something could happen at any time, so why didn't the prime minister or the army? The writing has been on the wall, but no one is reading it."

Protesters gathering after the blasts shouted "Death to the Arabs!" and "Death to Arafat!" and "Bibi go home!" and "We want revenge!"

Three hundred Bay Area teens and college students on various summer trips in Israel were not near the bombing site Wednesday, officials said.

Ami Nahshon, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay, said one group of teenagers on a Koret Foundation trip was in Jerusalem on Wednesday afternoon but they were in the Old City, approximately two miles from the market.

The rest of the 140 high school and 12 college students were in northern Israel.

Nahshon said organizers were making "minor program adjustments" due to the bombing, such as canceling a disco night out of respect for the victims. Security precautions, including using private buses and guards, were already in place, he said.

The East Bay teens are due back Sundays Aug. 10 and 24. The trips will not be cut short, Nahshon said.

Mickey Naggar Bourne, director of Israel programs at the S.F.-based Bureau of Jewish Education, said the 150 teens on its trip had left Jerusalem for Lake Kinneret a few hours before the terrorist attack.

A closing ceremony that was supposed to include fireworks and a light show at the lake would be substantially altered to respect those killed, she said.

In addition to the teens, a group of 40 Bay Area leaders and their families — including Rabbi Doug Kahn, Debra Pell, Vicky Kelman, Toby Rubin and Anita Friedman — were in Tiberias on Wednesday afternoon, wrapping up a tour of northern Israel.

Most of that group had been in Jerusalem the previous week as part of a leadership retreat sponsored by the Wexner Heritage Foundation.

"We were very far away. But Israel being Israel, it felt very close," Kahn said after returning to Jerusalem on Wednesday evening.

Jamee Vassallo, a 19-year-old woman from Oregon who was in Israel on a Christian prayer tour, said, "Before coming here I didn't have a real picture of what Israel was like. Attacks like this opened my eyes to what Israelis are going through. Now I know what I am praying for."

Yoni Howard, 14, of Encino, Calif., who was in the market with his grandparents when the blasts occured, told the Associated Press he thought the first explosion was a sonic boom.

"Then I heard another boom and felt the heat and heard people yelling, so I started running and looking for my grandmother and friends," he told the AP.

The wire service said Howard, who was injured in the thigh by a shard of glass, carried a 10-year-old friend who was hurt and ran for help.

In Washington, Clinton condemned the killings in a special news conference called immediately after the attack.

"We must not let the enemies of peace prevail," he said.

The president said he did not know whether the Palestinian Authority could have done something to prevent the attack, but he said he expected Arafat to increase "security operations" and strengthen security cooperation with the Israelis.

Arafat telephoned both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Ezer Weizman to express condolences.

But the premier rejected Arafat's words, telling him sorrow is not enough. Netanyahu said Arafat must act resolutely against the terrorist organizations.

"We expect not only words of consolation from the Palestinian Authority," he said. "We expect action."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Hussein denounced the attacks and phoned Netanyahu to express their condolences.

Netanyahu called a state of emergency in the nation and designated Thursday as a day of mourning.

And officials sealed the West Bank and Gaza Strip until "further notice."

JTA correspondent Naomi Segal in Jerusalem contributed to this report.