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Israelis Describe Palestinian Attack

January 18, 2002

HADERA, Israel (AP) _ Nina Kardashova was dancing at her bat mitzvah, a Jewish coming-of-age celebration, surrounded by family who had come to Israel from the mountains of Russia’s Dagestan in search of a new life.

As the band played, a Palestinian burst through the glass doors of the David’s Palace banquet hall, screamed at the guests in Arabic and unleashed bursts of gunfire from an M-16 assault rifle, killing six of the guests, including Nina’s 63-year-old grandfather.

In hospital hallways and cemeteries on Friday, the 12-year-old Nina grieved with her family. It was another day of funerals in what has become a familiar rhythm of mourning during more 16 months of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

``The terrorist destroyed the happiest day of my life,″ she told the Maariv daily.

The northern city of Hadera is located near the line separating Israel from the West Bank and has been the scene of several Palestinian bombings in the past year and a half.

Thursday night’s attacker was identified as Abed Hassouna, a member of the militant Palestinian Al Aqsa Brigades. The group has vowed to avenge the death of one its leaders who was killed in a bomb blast widely believed to have been carried out by Israel.

Under the dim glow of red and blue lights in the lobby, Hassouna, wearing khaki pants and a belt of ammunition under a green coat, burst through the doors, moved past large vases of plastic sunflowers and shot dead an unarmed security guard near a bar.

He dashed up a few steps into the brightly lit hall and killed five others, including the singer and guests at dining room tables. Some of the 180 guests dove to the floor.

His gun jammed and as he fumbled with the ammunition clip, guests, including Nina’s grandmother, rushed at him, hurling beer bottles and chairs.

Motti Hasson, a neighbor of the family, swung a chair hard into the thin-bearded gunman’s face. ``I yelled at everyone to grab him and kill him,″ said the 37-year-old truck driver, whose clothes became soaked with the gunman’s blood. Guests pummeled the man unconscious.

Eliahu Iskov said he saw the attacker on the floor and grabbed him by the foot to drag his body outside of the banquet hall. ``I thought that he had explosives strapped to his body and would explode,″ Iskov said.

Police officer Shimon Lugasi arrived at the scene and shot the attack four times in the head, the Maariv newspaper quoted Lugasi as saying.

Some people pulled tablecloths from the banquet tables and wrapped the wounded in them so they could quickly take them outside in case there were explosions.

Nina and a friend hid under a table. ``My best friend said to me, ’Let’s lie here quietly. We must not die,‴ she told Maariv.

Outside, the gunman’s crumpled body lay on the blood-smeared brick sidewalk, his brown leather shoes next to him beneath the hall’s sign with a small neon-lit image of a couple dancing.

Nina’s grandfather, Anatoli Bakshayev, was among the dead. ``How is it possible that the big grandfather of the whole family was killed?″ she said.

Relatives identified the bodies at the city’s hospital as others wept and paced the hallway of the emergency room.

One relative, Gabi Zaribilov, was angry. ``Why? They had no crime,″ he said. ``An entire family was destroyed. I saw my relatives dying before my eyes.″

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