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Critically Wounded In Bombing, Best Friends Recover Together

March 12, 1996

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ For a week, they lay side by side in intensive care, best friends fighting to stay alive after a terrorist bombing burned their bodies and bloodied their lungs.

Doctors hoped keeping the two 16-year-old boys together would inspire them to survive.

It appears to have worked.

By Monday, a week after the March 3 explosion, Tal Loel and Uri Tal _ though still in great pain _ had made an unexpectedly rapid recovery and were talking about resuming their lives.

First up: Finish the shopping trip that the bomb interrupted.

``We’re going to go back and get that drum skin at the mall,″ Uri said in Ichilov Hospital.

``It is good that Tal is here,″ he said. ``It is easier to go through this together.″

Tal, though he barely talked, smiled and laughed as an optimistic Uri, still missing the top layer of skin on his face, outlined their future plans.

The two friends were shopping for the musical equipment at Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center when an Islamic militant blew himself up nearby.

Dr. Patrick Sorkin, who heads the intensive care unit, said when the two first arrived at the hospital _ together _ he was afraid he would not be able to stop the internal bleeding in their lungs.

Both also suffered second-degree burns on most of their bodies and perforated eardrums, making hearing difficult.

``We kept them together because we hoped it would help,″ Sorkin said.

By the weekend, the boys were taken off the respirator and transferred to the plastic surgery ward. Sorkin had no explanation for the speedy recovery.

``It is quite amazing,″ he said.

Sorkin said the boys still suffered from some hearing loss and needed further treatment for their burns. He said it was too early to tell when they could be released.

The attack killed 13 people _ almost half of them children and teen-agers _ and injured more than 130. It was part of a series of attacks since Feb. 25. The Islamic militant group Hamas, which is trying to wreck the Israel-PLO peace process, has claimed responsibility.

Tal does not remember the blast. But Uri was able to recount the series of unfortunate choices that transformed their shopping trip.

The two arrived at Dizengoff Center without enough money to buy the drum skin, so they had to go to a cash machine.

Of three main machines at the shopping center, they chose the one on the corner of Dizengoff and King George streets _ the intersection the Islamic militant would target minutes later.

``I didn’t take out enough, so we went back,″ Uri said.

Then the bomb went off yards away.

``I was next to the cash machine and Tal was at the crosswalk, and I felt myself flung into the air,″ Uri said. ``I flew.″

Uri doesn’t remember how far he was thrown back by the force of the explosion _ or anything else that day.

``I woke up the next day and I was in the hospital,″ he said.

He added: ``At least I have Tal beside me.″

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