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A Nation Mourns Children in Bus Blast

August 22, 2003|From a Times Staff Writer

JERUSALEM — Israelis are calling it the "children's attack," and on Thursday they mourned the deaths of six youngsters in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem.

The children -- including two infants less than a year old -- were among 20 people killed by a Hamas militant who set off a bomb aboard a bus crowded with families returning from evening prayers Tuesday.

"An Entire Country Weeps," read the front-page headline of the Hatzofe newspaper, which serves the ultra-Orthodox community.

Photos in all of the Israeli dailies Thursday showed doll-like toddlers in the hospital with their faces and limbs still lacerated and bloodied, their eyes wide with shock.

The bombing claimed a woman and her 3-month-old son from New York and a man and his 9-year-old son who lived in Jerusalem. The other infant who was killed, 11-month-old Shmuel Zargari, had to be buried Wednesday without his parents present because both were too injured to leave their hospital beds. His small, shrouded body was carried from the hearse on a board by relatives.

Funerals for the victims continued Thursday.

About 40 children were among the more than 100 people injured in the bus bombing. The young victims were taken to various area hospitals, often separated from their parents.

Bentzi Oiereng, a paramedic who treated the wounded in Tuesday's attack, recounted the emotional difficulty of dealing with such young patients.

"When you treat a child, you fight back emotions. A cold shiver takes over your body," Oiereng told an Israeli news Web site. "I believe that on days like this we have to pray harder."

He went home that night and saw his youngest, a 10-month-old boy, asleep in a bassinet.

"I looked at him and thought to myself that he's almost the same age as a child I just performed CPR on," he said. "It shook me. I had to stop myself from waking him up to check he was breathing."

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