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13 killed in Jerusalem market blasts

More than 150 injured; suicide bombings suspected

July 30, 1997
Web posted at: 9:11 a.m. EDT (0911 GMT)

JERUSALEM(CNN) -- Police in Israel said at least 13 people were killed and 150 injured in two explosions at a crowded marketplace in Jerusalem Wednesday afternoon. Earlier police had put the death toll at 18.

Police suspect two suicide bombers carried out the attacks. The explosions went off within seconds of each other in the city's main fruit and vegetable market.

The bodies of the two suspected attackers were found in the rubble of the market, Israel radio reported. There was no claim of responsibility. The blasts went off about 1:15 p.m. (1015 GMT).

Jerrold Kessel reports from Jerusalem
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Jerrold Kessel describes the people who were at the market
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Police surrounded the immediately after the blasts, and shopkeepers were ordered to close their stores as police searched for more bombs.

Bodies covered in soot and blood lay on stretchers as emergency medical teams moved in and rushed to hospitals.

After the blasts, Israeli Police Chief Assaf Hefetz told reporters a closure had been imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip barring the entry of Palestinians to Israel.

A L S O :

World leaders condemn Jerusalem bomb attacks

Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Ezer Weizman to express his condolences over the loss of life in the bombings.

"President Arafat called both the Israeli president and Prime Minister Netanyahu to pay his condolences over the victims of the explosions," a statement issued by Arafat's office said. "He wished those injured a quick recovery."

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At the blast scene, witnesses described the devastation.

"There was a huge explosion. I was on a bus on the street entrance of the market. I saw dozens of injured, inside the market," witness David Levy told Israel's army radio.

"There was dust everywhere," another man, Avner, told Israel Radio. "I was inside the shop when the explosion took place.

"Anybody who was between two walls was saved, anybody who poked his head out was killed."

A witness to the scene describes his feelings for the peace process
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The attack on the Mahane Yehuda market was the deadliest against Israelis since the election of Netanyahu 14 months ago on a promise to better protect Israelis from such attacks.

It also came as U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross was about to begin a new mediation effort aimed at resuscitating peace talks between the Israeli government and Palestinians. Ross had been expected to meet Netanyahu and Arafat on Thursday.

The United States condemned the bombing and said Ross would now postpone his trip to the Middle East.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacts to the bombing
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Netanyahu called emergency Cabinet consultations in the wake of the attack.

Speaking on CNN, Israeli government spokesman Moshe Fogel accused Palestinians of making only a "lukewarm attempt" to fight terrorism.

Fogel said his government was "still looking for a way to proceed with a peace process" but said "what is not going to happen is business as usual. We are ready to go ahead with a peace process. But we are not ready to sit down and discuss a peace process while people have been murdered in the street."

Netanyahu has repeatedly accused Arafat of not cracking down hard enough on fundamentalist extremists, saying security was a key issue for the peace talks.

Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat called for the negotiations to go forward.

"We should accelerate the peace process," he said. "We should not allow those who are against the peace process to have their day. The Palestinian Authority never has and will never tolerate any violence."

Diplomatic sources have said the United States is drafting an initiative to revive peacemaking , which stalled in March because of controversial Jewish housing construction near Jerusalem.

The initiative is said to include an Israeli "pause" in housing construction in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinians say the housing construction preempts final status talks on Jerusalem, but that has repeatedly been rejected by the Israeli government.

On Wednesday, prior to the attack, Netanyahu took a tough line, saying Washington could not dictate formulas for reviving Middle East peacemaking.

"There are no American client states here," Netanyahu told the newspaper Haaretz in an interview published after the White House announced it was sending envoy Dennis Ross to the region for high-level talks to advance peacemaking.

Correspondent Jerrold Kessel has contributed to this report


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