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Jerusalem Tries to Put Attack Behind

June 19, 2002

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JERUSALEM (AP) _ The wrecked shell of a city bus, torn apart by a suicide bomber, illustrated the lifestyle of fear that has gripped the Jewish side of Jerusalem after nearly two years of bombing attacks.

It also showed how routine the horror has become: Only two hours after the 21st deadly attack in Jerusalem in almost as many months, the twisted skeleton of the bus had already been hauled away, the blood hosed down and broken glass swept up. The suicide bomber and 19 other people died in the Tuesday morning attack.

Not long afterward, traffic was jamming the street as usual. Only a wet patch from a street cleaning machine remained.

But the terror campaign has had its effects. The nearly empty shopping areas, vegetable market and bars reflect the hesitation of many of the city’s 400,000 Jews to leave their homes unless they have to. About 200,000 Palestinians live in the Arab section of the city.

Bombings and shootings have killed more than 100 people in Jerusalem since the fighting with the Palestinians broke out in September 2000, but Tuesday’s attack was the bloodiest in the city in six years.

``I’m used to seeing bombings in Jerusalem, but I’ve never seen anything like this,″ said Yehuda Levinger, standing near a row of bodies covered in black plastic at the scene he helped clean up. ``The destruction and the injuries were horrible.″

Jerusalem bombings in the last year included one in August at a Sbarro pizzeria that killed 15 people and another in March at the popular Cafe Moment that killed 11 people.

Jerusalem’s citizens have come to know a depressing routine: a tremendous boom, the rush of ambulances, radios blaring the breathless voices of reporters on the scene, frantic relatives searching for loved ones. Just hours later, the funerals processions begin.

The city’s Jewish mayor, Ehud Olmert, said Tuesday that a fence being built along the edges of the city that abut the West Bank would not keep suicide bombers out.

``I never, never tried to describe an unrealistic picture for the people of Jerusalem,″ Olmert said. ``I always told them that it’s tough and it might be tougher, it’s dangerous and it might be more dangerous.″

But he called on residents not to be afraid to ``step out into the streets,″ saying security forces were doing everything they could to stop the bombings.

Yaffa Sheetrit, an official at a center that counsels nervous residents, said it had been inundated with calls after Tuesday’s bombing.

``We’re still trying to deal with this crumbling situation,″ Sheetrit said. ``We’re not sure we’re going to be able to deal with this. This is a great tragedy.″

In January, the pressure took its toll on Jerusalem police chief Mickey Levy, who had a heart attack minutes after a bombing in January. He recovered quickly and resumed his duties.

Many in Jerusalem have tried to carry on, continuing to ride the buses and shop at a vegetable market that has been a frequent target. They say they won’t change their habits because that would mean staying at home all day. Some say they’re defying the terrorists by getting on with their lives.

And some say they have become hardened to the destruction. Eli Ran, a student at a high school near Tuesday’s bombing, said he wasn’t shocked as he rushed to help the injured.

``It was like every bombing,″ said the stone-faced Ran. ``We’re used to it already. I don’t get upset by it any more.″

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