Saturday, November 20, 2004

"I Saw the Smile of the Suicide Bomber"

Osnat Dodo tells of the night she survived the attack of a suicide bomber in Jerusalem last year to Catherine O'Brien ["I Saw the Smile of the Suicide Bomber, Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), November 20, 2004]. Here are some excerpts:
My brother Yoram spotted him first, but a split second later I saw him too. He was small, like a child -- he can't have been more than 17 -- and he was wearing a big smile.

It was a sinister rather than a happy smile, the smile of someone whose mind has been skewed by drugs.

As he reached the cafe door, I could see he was hiding something underneath his shirt.

Yoram shouted, but it was too late. There was an ear-splitting noise and a blinding light, then darkness, silence and a smell I cannot describe: the reek of shredded, burning flesh.

I had been standing at the front of the cafe, behind a pillar. Yoram had been outside by one of the pavement tables.

As I looked up, the floor-to-ceiling glass that separated us was cascading like a waterfall. I looked down. Incredibly, thanks to the pillar, I appeared to be unharmed.

Then I looked right and left and, through dense, black smoke, I saw things that no one should see. All around me were people who were horribly mutilated, without hands, arms, legs.

The body of one of the customers, a doctor, was in three pieces and on fire.

Alon, the cafe security guard, a young man of 21, was charcoaled with burns.

As I stepped sideways, desperately looking for Yoram, a man reached out to me. He had no legs and could not speak, but his eyes were saying "please help me". As I leant down to touch him, he took his last breath....

It was about 11.15pm when the suicide bomber approached.

How did we know what he was? I can only put it down to instinct. I heard Yoram call to Alon, "There's a bomber".

Alon, who was sitting by the entrance, pushed him away, and in that instant the bomb exploded.

The front of the cafe took the full force, as did a car outside, which belonged to the doctor. Inside was his daughter, who was going to be married the next day.

They say if you get caught up in a bombing, you shouldn't look around you because what you see is so terrible you will never forget it. But I had to look. I needed to find my brother.

It was 20 minutes before the police could tell me he was alive -- he had been thrown 200m by the blast.

The bombing of the Cafe Hillel in west Jerusalem on September 9, 2003 killed seven people and wounded 50. Dr. David Appelbaum, one of those murdered by the bomber, had just returned from New York where he had lectured on treating injuries sustained in suicide bombings. Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) claimed responsibility for the attack and the bomber, Ramez Fahmi Izz al-Din. The Cafe Hillel reopened for business just one month after the bombing.

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|| headland, 1:46 AM


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