After bombings, a grim routine
11 Israelis were killed Thursday in a bus bombing in Jerusalem. Hamas claimed responsibility.
JERUSALEM AND BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK
Reuven Pool has raced to the scene of suicide bombings dozens of times, perhaps scores - he hasn't kept count.Skip to next paragraph
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Sometimes he arrives at the wheel of an ambulance, sometimes as a volunteer emergency worker. After he sees to the wounded, he joins a squad of men who specialize in collecting scattered bits of human remains for Jewish burial.
Thursday morning, after a Palestinian man had blown himself up on a rush-hour bus, killing 11 Israelis, Mr. Pool examined a bus stop across the street from the blast site. He wore a white coverall and a white yarmulke and held a spackle knife in one hand and a plastic bag in the other. "With time, you get used to it," he says.
Palestinian suicide bombers have struck Israeli targets at least 85 times over the past two years, but Pool isn't the only one who has accustomed himself to the grim rituals that follow each attack.
For those most directly affected - the wounded and the families of the dead - the act is sudden, tragic, incomprehensibly violent. Four of the dead were under 18, according to police.
But many people at such scenes, including police, emergency workers, and volunteers such as Pool, simply get to work. Gil Kleiman, foreign press spokesman for the Israeli police, calls the aftermath of a suicide bombing "the routine of terror."
In the bomber's home, another sort of ritual occurs. Neighbors mill around and visitors sometimes congratulate the family on their relative's "martyrdom."
Thursday morning, in the Bethlehem home of Nael Abu Hilayel, his mother and aunt sat crossed-legged on plastic mats covering the cement floor of a small courtyard, each holding Abu Hilayel's picture in their hands.
Speaking to a reporter from a Bethlehem television station, the mother wept and wailed as she described how Nael had left home Wednesday for noon prayers at the mosque. He called later in the day, telling the family not expect him for the celebrations in early December that will mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. They tried to reach him all night, but his cellular phone was turned off.
Nael may have been with the military wing of the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, which claimed responsibility for the attack in a leaflet published on its website Thursday.
His father, Azmi, says Nael acted because he "saw the flesh of the Palestinian people" scattered by Israeli fire. Israeli forces killed eight Palestinians on Tuesday and Wednesday, at least some of whom were militants.
Rhetoric such as Azmi's is common following suicide attacks. The governments involved also take practiced steps. The Israeli security Cabinet goes into special session and the Palestinian Authority (PA) condemns attacks on civilians - Israeli and Palestinian. At the scene, the focus is on restoring normalcy. Police immediately cordon off the area around a blast, clearing lanes for ambulances. Within minutes - 15 or 20 at the most - the wounded are on their way to hospitals, says Mr. Kleiman, the police spokesman.