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U.S. Students To Stay Despite Attack

August 1, 2002

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JERUSALEM (AP) _ A day after a bombing that killed seven people, including five Americans, U.S. students opened a new summer session at Hebrew University in mourning Thursday, saying they wouldn’t be driven away by the attack.

``It hardened my resolve to stay,″ said Daniel Faraha, 20, of Carmel, Ind., who walked out of the cafeteria at the Frank Sinatra International Students Center about three minutes before the explosion Wednesday. The bombers, he said, ``did this because they wanted us to run away.″

In a brief service at the Nancy Reagan Plaza outside the cafeteria, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, a one-time student at the university, denounced Palestinian terror attacks and added a wreath to flowers and candles placed on the ground.

``We have grieved with all the people of Israel as they have faced Palestinian terrorism,″ said Kurtzer. ``Now that five American citizens have been killed, our grief is even deeper.″

The militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the bombing, which police said was detonated with a cell phone. Hamas called it revenge for an Israeli attack last week in Gaza that killed the leader of its military wing and 14 civilians.

A leading Hamas official, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, said it didn’t matter to the group that most of the dead were Americans.

``We are fighting on our occupied land. We didn’t go to America or France,″ Rantisi told The Associated Press. ``It is better for America and France to advise its citizens not to go to areas of war.″

The bomb, filled with nails and metal, was hidden in a bag on a table in the middle of the crowded cafeteria, a popular gathering spot for Jewish, Arab and foreign students.

The bodies of some U.S. citizens were to head back to the United States on a flight leaving Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, late Monday night, Israeli officials said.

At least one American, Dina Carter, 37, who also had Israeli citizenship, was to be buried in Israel, police said.

The other American victims were identified as Benjamin Blutstein, 25, of Susquehanna Township, Penn.; Marla Bennett, 24, of San Diego; Janis Ruth Coulter, 36, who worked in New York; and David Gritz, 24, who held dual American-French citizenship.

``This question may seem inconsequential, but the events of the past few months in Israel have led me to believe that each small decision I make _ by which route to walk to school, whether or not to go out to dinner _ may have life-threatening consequences,″ Bennett wrote in a May 10 column for a San Diego newspaper.

Bennett had lived in Jerusalem for two years, and was a year away from earning a joint graduate degree from Hebrew University and the religious school Pardes Institute, said Norman Greene, a family spokesman.

In Washington, President Bush, who was meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan, said: ``I am just as angry as Israel is. I am furious. ... But even though I am mad, I still think peace is possible.″

Abdullah, for his part, stressed a need to move ahead in peacemaking. ``You have really given us hope that once and for all we will be able to move forward as Arabs and Israelis to be able to live in peace and harmony and have a tremendous future.″

Hebrew University has 1,500 foreign students, many from the United States, at its three campuses, with most concentrated at the Mount Scopus branch in the eastern part of Jerusalem, where the bombing took place.

Some come to show solidarity with Israel, while others see it as an adventurous semester or year abroad. Others want to focus intensively on Jewish studies and learning Hebrew. A small number are Christian divinity students who want firsthand experience in the Holy Land.

``I came now to stand with Israel, because there aren’t many people traveling to Israel, and it’s hurting the economy,″ said Rebecca Casey, 20, a Christian from Albuquerque, N.M. ``If we give into (terrorism) and don’t continue with the school, we would let them win.″

Police detained a number of Arab employees of the university on suspicion of having aided the bomber, said a police official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Lissi Young, 25, of Boston, returned to the site of the bombing Thursday to pay respects to two friends who were killed.

``I needed to see the place, it could have so easily been me,″ she said, adding that she was trying to decide whether to return home. ``My family can’t sleep. They’re crying and calling me. I don’t know if it’s fair to do this to my family.″

The bombing shattered the belief that the university, a place where Jews and Arabs have mingled with relative ease for decades, was somehow sheltered from the roiling Mideast conflict. Young said she saw little hope for peace in the region.

``I’ve got so much anger,″ she said. ``I don’t know how there can be peace when there are people raised to hate.″

Kurtzer, the U.S. ambassador, took Middle Eastern studies at the university in 1969-70. ``The terrorist murderers _ those who sent them and those whose action and inaction contributed to this despicable act _ have descended to a new depth of depravity.

``They have violated the sanctuary of a university, in which Israelis, Arabs, Jews, Muslims and Christians study together,″ he said.

In new violence Thursday, a 27-year-old Israeli man, his hands and feet bound, was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head in his factory office near the Palestinian town of Tulkarem in the northern West Bank. Brig. Gen. Gershon Yitzhak, divisional commander of the West Bank, told Israel Radio the attackers were believed to be Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military destroyed the family house of Hazem Atta Sarasara, who carried out a suicide bombing attack on Tuesday in Jerusalem that wounded seven Israelis.

In recent weeks, Israel has revived its policy of tearing down the homes of Palestinian assailants, an effort intended to show that such actions carry a price for the bombers’ families.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli troops who had remained on the edge of town moved into the city center Thursday. Residents who had defied the army-imposed curfew for four days stayed home.

Israeli troops control seven of the eight main Palestinian centers in the West Bank, moving in after back-to-back suicide bomb attacks in Jerusalem June 18-19. The university bombing and a suicide attack the day before were the first bombings in Jerusalem since the incursions.

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