Advertisement

The World

Gunman Kills Two in Jerusalem

Mideast: 14 injured as Palestinian fires wildly on a busy street. Hamas vows 'an all-out war' after Israeli special forces kill four militants.

January 23, 2002|TRACY WILKINSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

JERUSALEM — Choosing the busiest time of day on this city's busiest commercial street, a Palestinian marched into downtown Jerusalem on Tuesday and raked pedestrians, shoppers and people waiting at bus stops with bursts of automatic gunfire until police shot him to death.

Two Israelis were killed and 14 others seriously wounded in the attack, which came hours after Israeli special forces killed four Islamic militants in the West Bank city of Nablus and the dead men's organization, Hamas, vowed "all-out war" on Israel.

A conflict that has already claimed more than 1,000 lives in nearly 16 months is escalating to one of its most dangerous levels yet. With mutual threats of harsh retaliation, each side accuses the other of pushing the cycle of violence, hatred and revenge to the brink.

In Nablus, Palestinian anger wasn't directed at Israel alone. After the four Hamas activists were killed, hundreds of sympathizers stormed the downtown Nablus prison and tried to scale the gates to demand the release of about two dozen Palestinians held there by the Palestinian Authority. At least one Hamas supporter was killed by Palestinian police who opened fire on the rioters.

In Jerusalem, rush hour was in full swing on bustling Jaffa Street when a Palestinian later identified as Saeed Ramadan walked up to a cell phone store and began shooting at people waiting for buses. The gunman fired indiscriminately for up to 10 minutes before police chased, confronted and killed him.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militia affiliated with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed Ramadan as one of its own and said he was acting to avenge the recent killing of one of the group's leaders.

Liat Moshe, a 24-year-old salesclerk at the phone store, said the gunman carried his M-16 rifle slung across his back as he walked down Jaffa Street, apparently not attracting much attention in a society that is so security-conscious and so well-armed.

"Until he shouted, 'Allahu Akbar' ['God is great'] and began shooting, I thought he looked like a regular person," Moshe said. She immediately took cover behind a counter as the gunman fired wildly, "like a maniac," she said. She saw an older woman across the street in a clothing shop fall, stricken. The glass door of her own store shattered into thousands of pieces.

"It was scary, scary, scary," Moshe said, still trembling.

Next door at the Koresh boutique, customers and salespeople ran to hide in the back when the shooting started. The store's plate-glass windows were peppered with bullet holes, but inside only the mannequins had been hit. Bullets had severed the hand of one mannequin and pierced her red suit jacket.

Pedestrians dived for the sidewalks, and a number of civilians whipped pistols from their belts and joined police in shooting at the gunman. He sprayed bus shelters on both sides of the street, as well as at least one bus loaded with passengers. Victims' blood was splattered on the rain-drenched pavement.

Police Sgt. Hanan Ben Naim was identified as the officer who killed Ramadan. He said he heard the shooting and ran to an alleyway off Jaffa Street where the gunman was trying to escape through a parking lot. At about 20 feet apart, the two men shot at each other until Ramadan fell dead, Ben Naim recalled. The 26-year-old policeman had been close enough to the attacker to make eye contact, he said.

"I saw hate in his eyes," Ben Naim told reporters. "Calm, but full of hate."

Ben Naim is a member of a special team of police officers who work in civilian clothes and patrol city centers on the lookout for terrorists. He was dressed in jeans and tennis shoes, and he killed the Palestinian with nothing more than a Jericho semiautomatic pistol.

"I saw something tonight that it's better not to see," said Arie Zini, 40, who runs a health food store on Jaffa Street. "To know people do such crazy things, to shoot at defenseless people. It's a pity that people can sink to this level."

Zini, who was in the Star cosmetics shop when the shooting started nearby, said numerous Israelis charged the gunman, throwing him into a panic and causing him to aim his gun wildly. Otherwise, Zini said, the toll might have been higher.

The shooting occurred about half a block east of a pizzeria where a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 15 people in August, and about half a block west of the strip of cafes and snack shops where two suicide bombers killed 11 young people last month.

Each attack in this conflict has been answered by bloody payback, and more violence is expected. Now, however, there is a sense of dread among Israelis and Palestinians that the next phase of violence will be harsher than before.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|