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Seven Dead, 45 Wounded in Blast

Aired July 31, 2002 - 07:29   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news out of the Middle East now. We go back to Jerusalem, where early reports indicate seven people have lost their lives, 45 injured. Those numbers have gone back and forth.

At the university here, Jerrold Kessel on the phone live with his insights -- good morning, Jerrold.


Another day, another afternoon of death and destruction in Jerusalem, as another terror attack takes place. Seven people have been killed, according to hospital sources, 45 wounded. Of them nine reported in serious condition. Ten are described as having moderate injuries. The others are less seriously hurt, minor injuries.

Just moments ago people wheeled past me here just outside the cafeteria where the attack took place on stretchers down to the waiting ambulances. There's been a whole phalanx of ambulances that have been making their way across from the university campus here, the Hebrew University campus, to the nearby Hadassah Hebrew University Hospital, which is just about 250 yards away from the university campus itself.

The police are still saying that it, only that it was an explosion. They are not yet confirming the reports of eyewitnesses that there was, this was a case of another suicide bombing. Police have not yet established that for certain, saying there was an explosion but it certainly was a devastating and deafening explosion which reached to many parts of the city just about, just over a half an hour ago, about 35, 40 minutes ago that this explosion took place. It's now 2:30 p.m. local time.

The second say in a row that there has been such an attack in Jerusalem. Yesterday only a number of people were wounded as a suicide bomber blew himself up and this another case of an attack in perhaps an area where they're not expected to be an explosion because the university is fairly well guarded, to the extent of people having their bags checked and so forth as they go into the university and into the cafeteria.

This is, of course, the summer vacation, but there are university end of year examinations taking place and also summer courses that have been under way. So pretty crowded at lunchtime in the university cafeteria as this blast took place.

As we said, not yet confirmed a suicide bombing, but definitely a major explosion which has killed seven people and wounded at least 45 as of the last count -- Paula.

ZAHN: Jerrold, as you were working your way to the site, a man described, who described himself or identified himself only as "Shai (ph)" told Army Radio of Israel, "There was a terrorist and he blew up. There is a lot of chaos, a lot of police, it's a mess. There is a lot of wounded."

This is a man who told, talked to Army Radio and, in turn, that report filtered out to Associated Press. As is the case with these bombings early on, there's a lot of conflicting information. But before we try to dive through these conflicting numbers, once again, give us a sense of the maximum number of people who might have been on campus at the time of this explosion.

KESSEL: Well, in the cafeteria itself, several hundred or perhaps a little bit less than that. The campus itself, not as crowded as it would normally be during term time, but this, as I say, a time when there's still the end of year examinations taking place and there are a number of summer courses at the university, including overseas students who come here for such summer courses.

And it was fairly crowded and many of the faculty were here on -- the campus is open and operating. And what's perhaps the unexpected thing about this is the site of the explosion. Yesterday, earlier yesterday the head of Israel's Shin Bet, the internal security services, were reporting that there were 60 known terrorists, as he said, waiting to carry out their attacks. A dozen had been stopped in the last week alone. And Israel has been bracing even though it has mounted this major operation of presence in the Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank, that there could be bombers getting through as, indeed, took place yesterday.

As is likely today, there are eyewitness reports that this was another case of a suicide bombing. But as of yet, the police have been careful on that in saying just an explosion, whether a bomb was left or a suicide bomber. But according to the eyewitnesses, indeed, this was a case of a man blowing himself up again.

ZAHN: All right, and Jerrold, once again, as you were reporting, we got confirmation that Hamas is, indeed, claiming responsibility for this explosion.

KESSEL: Yes, well Hamas, as you know, after the attack last week in Gaza, where Israel launched that air raid which killed the Hamas military commander and also several Palestinian civilians, including a number of children in that attack, Hamas had vowed revenge. But even though it went on to say, of course, that Hamas will say this was in retaliation, Hamas in the past has carried out attacks on its choice of timing and place, and perhaps there, as many of its commanders would say, they don't need to have the excuse, in quote marks, for carrying out attacks, because they believe they should be attacking Israelis wherever they can to defeat Israel. But in this case they certainly have been saying over the last week that they were planning revenge attacks for that attack on their military commander and the death of those civilians down in Gaza in that Israeli air attack -- Paula.

ZAHN: Jerrold, one last question for you. What was the level of security on this campus before this explosion?

KESSEL: I can't quote exactly what happened, but prior knowledge is it's pretty tight. If you try to get into the -- the campus is built on a hillside overlooking the Old City. It's on the hill called Mount Scopus. This was the original Hebrew University campus set up in the 1920s. And after 1948, the Arab-Israel war, it was remained only an enclave that Israel had access to but no direct control over in the sense that it had, it was not linked contiguously in territory between it and the Israeli part of Jerusalem and this enclave.

But after 1967 when Israel took control of the whole part of Jerusalem, of course, the Hebrew University was rebuilt, along with its other campus on the west side of town. It has, it's built on a hill with only some three or four exit roads cutting into the university campus. And they are, you can't get in unless you have the appropriate sticker or permission to get in. And even walking in it's very difficult and there are people on the gates. And the guards are supposed to be checking.

But there are fences that can be climbed, I guess, and a would be bomber could make his way in. But it isn't an easy target to penetrate.

And, as I say, this was perhaps not one place where the police had anticipated rather than -- that there would be attack, rather than, for instance, yesterday's attack in the center of town in open, in one of the open streets where there have been many such attacks and where there is still high security. But high security here, too, only yesterday say 60 reported attacks. So waiting to happen, said the Israeli security chief. Well, one of them has again happened today.

ZAHN: Jerrold Kessel, thanks for that update.

Just, for those of you just joining us, we can now confirm that Israeli officials are saying that 45 people were injured at that suicide bombing site at Hebrew University. Seven are dead. And Hamas is now claiming responsibility for this action -- Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, just reading here, Paula. Mostly Jewish students attending this school. But there are a number of Arab students who attend there, as well, some reports indicating that some Arabs may be among the victims, as well.

But this is two days in a row now that we have seen this. But this attack today clearly much more devastating than what we saw yesterday in central Jerusalem.

We'll track it. We won't leave it. Clearly that is our top story this hour and will be throughout the morning here. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT



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