2 Arabs open fire inside Israeli bus Gunmen, hostage killed at roadblock


JERUSALEM -- Two Arab attackers opened fire inside a crowded city bus yesterday and then abducted an Israeli woman who died with them in a shootout with authorities.

Two other Jews and one Arab were wounded in the attack, which is likely to further aggravate the already ailing Middle East peace negotiations. One of the two Jews wounded on the bus, 42-year-old Olga Haikov, died in a hospital hours later, police said.

It was the most serious terrorist attack against Jews since Israel ordered the closure of the occupied West Bank and Gaza three " months ago following a spate of attacks against Israelis.

Israel insisted yesterday that its role in the peace talks would not be jeopardized by any hardening of public opinion that may follow the incident. "We are not going to hand the fate of the peace process to the hands of terrorists," Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said at the site of the bus attack.

The attackers began firing with automatic weapons at the mostly Jewish commuters packed in the morning rush-hour bus. They then commandeered a car driven by Jeanette Kadosh Dayan, 39, and forced her on a 4-mile ride across the city.

At an army checkpoint, they exchanged fire with soldiers and police, and all three died, according to authorities.

Israeli police still were trying to determine yesterday if an Arab man wounded in the bus was an accomplice of the attackers. Police said he is a wanted member of the Hamas fundamentalist group from a refugee camp in Gaza.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, on an official trip to Paris, was quick toplace responsibility for the attack on Hamas, which advocates violence to oppose the Middle East peace negotiations. "I have reason to believe that it was carried out by the extreme Islamic terror groups, by Hamas or the Islamic Jihad," Mr. Rabin said at the French Parliament.

Late yesterday, police authorities said the attackers belonged to a Hamas group in Hebron.

Mr. Rabin also defended the closure of the territories, which he imposed March 30. That closure and the deportation of 415 Palestinians in December were taken in response to an increase in Palestinian attacks on Israelis.

Yesterday's attack is likely to renew questions about the effectiveness of the closure, with some saying the measure should be abandoned as unworkable and others demanding it (( be tightened.

"Undoubtedly, the tragedy which took place this morning stresses the need to make sure the closure is effective to prevent terror activities," Mr. Rabin said. "[Despite] this case on the edge of Jerusalem, the closure has contributed to the prevention of terrorism and knifings and restored the sense of personal security of most Israelis," he said.

Apparent reprisals

Authorities reported two cases of apparent reprisal. They said an Arab family of five was "lightly hurt" when a Jewish man opened fire on them near Jerusalem "in what appears to be an act of revenge," according to Israel Radio.

Later reports said that an ultra-Orthodox Jew opened fire against Arab workers at a construction site. None was hit, but several were hurt leaping for safety, according to police and Israel Radio. Police Minister Moshe Shahal appealed to Jews to "react with coolness."

The Israeli opposition Likud bloc seized on the attack as proof of what it believes is a too-lenient government policy. Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel is "in the throes of a battle for the status of Jerusalem." He called for a rejection of any compromise in the peace talks on the issue of Jerusalem.

The attack began about 7:15 a.m. on a red-and-white public bus, number 25, which runs from a Jewish settlement on the northern outskirts of Jerusalem to the center city, passing near some Arab neighborhoods.

According to the police account, at least two Arabs boarded the bus with bags. As the bus passed an area called French Hill, on a rise overlooking downtown, the men apparently removed an automatic rifle and a pistol from the bags, and began shooting.

"I heard about 10 to 15 shots being fired," a taxi driver, Emil Biton, told Army Radio.

The gunmen shot the 42-year-old Israeli woman in the head, and she later died in the hospital. They lightly wounded the bus driver, who apparently struggled with them. It is unclear how the other Arab was shot.

During the melee, the accordion-type bus jackknifed onto the median strip, and the two attackers fled. They left behind two home-made bombs that were later removed and detonated by authorities.

Woman's car commandeered

The attackers apparently ran to the nearby Jewish neighborhood of Ramot Eshkol, where they found Mrs. Dayan leaving in her Renault 5 for her job as a draftswoman. They commandeered her car, and forced her to drive south toward Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

At one point, the men threw two bombs or grenades, but they did not explode, police said.

At the city limits, the car came upon a roadblock set up with steel lane dividers where soldiers check passes and enforce the closure.

The exact details of what happened still are unclear: one border policeman said Mrs. Dayan veered the car, and the man next to her shot at her legs. She either leaped or was pushed from the car, which continued rolling.

Police said the terrorists opened fire and threw two grenades that did not explode, and soldiers and police returned the fire. The car rolled about 70 yards, they said, then hit some rocks and burst into flames.

Authorities said the flames were caused by two additional bombs the attackers had with them. The two men were burned to death.

It remained uncertain if Mrs. Dayan was killed by her attackers or shot to death in the cross-fire with soldiers. She was the mother of four children, ages 3 to 15.

Army Chief of Staff Ehud Barak told reporters the Arab wounded in the bus was part of the attack, although it was unclear on what he based his statement. He also said a pistol used by the gunmen had the word "Hamas" scratched into the handle.

Hamas had taken credit for previous attacks on Israelis. Israel deported 415 alleged organizers of Hamas to southern Lebanon in December, and announced that the group had been crippled by the further arrest last month of 124 Palestinians.

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