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Dance of Death Continues for Israelis, Arabs

Violence: The bullets that snuffed out joy and lives at a girl's birthday party are but the latest outrage in a seemingly unbreakable cycle.

January 19, 2002|MARY CURTIUS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

HADERA, Israel — The camera follows the beaming 12-year-old in the glittering gown as she dances with friends to fast-paced music. It stays on her as she turns, puzzled, when the crack of gunfire rings out.

For a moment, the band plays on, the sound of shots mingling with the music. Then come screams as the elegantly dressed revelers realize that they are under attack. They dive for cover. The footage stops.

The video was shown on Israeli television Friday night, capturing the moment that Nina Kardashova's bat mitzvah, a joyous Jewish coming-of-age celebration, became the latest outrage in the seemingly unbreakable cycle of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

The dance and dinner at the Palace of David banquet hall in this northern Israeli city began as a perfect evening, Nina told the newspaper Maariv. It ended in chaos and terror and the shattering of her family.

There are images that Nina, who emigrated with her family from Russia several years ago, took away from the evening that the camera didn't capture: She saw a man "dressed in a uniform" and carrying a weapon walk past one of her uncles and open fire.

"My best friend, Liran Hasson, made me lie down and said to me: 'Let's lie here quietly. We must not die. You must not die at your bat mitzvah celebration. Let's stay alive,' " Nina said.

She watched as her grandmother "took a chair and threw it" at Abed Hassounah, the 26-year-old gunman, and as her mother "beat his head into the floor and said to him, 'You ruined the party.' "

After family members rushed her out a back door, Nina learned that her grandfather, Edward Bakshayev, 48, and a cousin, Anatoli Bakshayev, 63, were among the six people killed before the gunman was beaten and then shot to death.

On the videotape is a scene of Nina's grandfather giving her a pair of diamond earrings for her birthday.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militia affiliated with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's mainstream Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack. The group said it was to avenge the death of a militia commander on Monday in what Palestinians say was an Israeli assassination.

The revelers at Nina's party exacted their revenge on the spot.

After Hassounah's M-16 rifle jammed, they jumped him as he fumbled with the weapon. The crowd knocked him to the ground, where they kicked and beat him severely before dragging him out onto the sidewalk.

Israeli police officers arriving on the scene said they saw Hassounah reach for what they feared were explosives strapped to his body. A policeman and an Arab serving in Israel's Civil Guard shot Hassounah in the head, killing him. Police later said Hassounah had a grenade clipped to his belt but no other explosives.

"I saw the whole thing from beginning to end," said Rahel Rehamim, a 25-year-old mother of three who was visiting a sister across the street from the banquet hall. "I saw the terrorist running with his gun. I saw the guard get shot. I saw the people dragging the terrorist out. I saw them pounding him, kicking him, hitting him with purses."

She saw people do "some shocking things" to Hassounah, Rehamim said. "But I enjoyed every single groan of pain and also when I heard the gun clip being emptied into him. They paid him back. In front of me, I kept seeing the injured people and the survivors screaming, 'Help me! Help me!' " she said. As the mob beat him, "I felt a sense of relief, a sense of victory."

On Friday, Rehamim went to Hille Yaffe hospital, where eight of the 38 people injured were still being treated. She wanted to see the people she had tried to help before paramedics arrived.

"I just had to see them," she said. "I had to see what happened to them."

She stood outside the room of Vladimir Yusuposove, 51, a guest at the party and one of those who had attacked the gunman. Yusuposove, a truck driver, said he was sitting at a table with friends when he realized that they were being shot at. He said he lunged at the gunman, knocking him to the ground.

"I knew it was either him or me, that either I kill him or he will kill everybody," Yusuposove said. In the chaos that followed, someone cut Yusuposove's neck with a knife.

Like most of the 180 guests, Yusuposove is an immigrant from the Russian republic of Dagestan. The sister of one victim said that most arrived in Israel within the last decade, looking for a place "where we can live as Jews."

On Friday, many of the uninjured party-goers spent the day at funerals and at the hospital.

The plate-glass windows of the banquet hall were plastered with placards and a death notice for the slain guard, Avi Yazdi, who had been married in the same hall just a few months earlier.

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