Ben Yehuda

The Ben Yehuda Street bombings refer to a series of attacks by Palestinian Arabs and suicide bombers on civilians in downtown Jerusalem, Israel in 1948 and later on. The attacks were carried out on Ben Yehuda Street, a major thoroughfare, later a pedestrian mall, named for the founder of modern Hebrew, Eliezer Ben Yehuda.

1948

1948 Ben Yehuda Street bombing
Location Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem
Coordinates 31°48′N 35°12′ECoordinates: 31°48′N 35°12′E
Date February 22, 1948
Target Pedestrian shopping mall
Attack type
car bombs
Deaths 58
Non-fatal injuries
123

On February 22, 1948, three British Army trucks led by an armoured car driven by Arab irregulars and British deserters exploded on Ben Yehuda Street killing from 49 to 58 civilians[1][2] and injuring from 140 to 200.[3][4][5][6] The bomb had been created by Fawzi al-Qutb. The convoy was led by a Jerusalemite militant, ‘Azmi al-Ja’uni, who spoke fluent English and could pass himself off as a British officer.[4] Two British deserters, Eddie Brown, a police captain who claimed that the Irgun had killed his brother, and Peter Madison, an army corporal, had been persuaded to join the attack, also by the promise of substantial financial rewards.[7]

A leaflet stating that the explosion was in response to an Irgun bomb attack three days earlier, in Ramla on the 19th of February, was distributed the following evening. It was signed by Abd al-Qadir who assumed responsibility for the operation.[3][8] Abd al-Qadir himself, in Cairo the day after, left a statement to Al-Ahram to the same effect and the Army of the Holy War High Command reiterated the declaration in Palestine.[4] Husayn al-Khalidi, secretary of the Arab Higher Committee deplored the act as ‘depravity unfit for the Arab spirit,’[4] while the committee itself, in an attempt to distance itself from the incident, tried to throw doubt on the authenticity of Abd al-Qadir’s public statements.[4]

In the ensuing confusion, Jewish residents immediately blamed the British for the attack. David Ben-Gurion, on visiting the site of the carnage, has been cited as putting some responsibility for this Arab attack on the shoulders of Jewish thugs, stating, “I could not forget that our thugs and murderers had opened the way.”[9] The Irgun spread word ordering militants to shoot on sight any Englishman.[10] By day’s end, eight British soldiers had been shot dead, while a ninth was murdered while laid up in a Jewish clinic for treatment of a wound.[3] The day after, on 23 February, a Jewish offensive, deploying mortars, was launched against the Arab village of Musrara, in Jerusalem, killing seven Arabs, including an entire family. The Arabs believed it was in revenge for the Ben-Yehuda Street bombing, though, according to Itamar Radai, at the time the Jews and their official institutions blamed only the British for the incident. [11] Lehi also reacted several days later by blowing up a train full of British soldiers as it drew out of Rehovot station, killing 27.[3]

1975

1975 Ben Yehuda Street Bombing
Location Zion Square, leading onto Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem
Coordinates 31°48′N 35°12′ECoordinates: 31°48′N 35°12′E
Date July 4, 1975
Target Pedestrian shopping mall
Attack type
time bomb
Deaths 15
Non-fatal injuries
77
Perpetrator Ahmad el-Sukar

On Friday, July 4, 1975, a refrigerator that had five kilograms of explosives packed into its sides exploded on Zion Square, a main square leading to Ben Yehuda Street and Jaffa Road. Fifteen people were killed and 77 injured in the attack. Ahmad el-Sukar, who was responsible for placing the bomb, was released from Israeli prison in 2003 as a gesture to Arafat.

On November 13, 1975, an explosive charge went off near Cafe Naveh on Jaffa Road, near the pedestrian mall. Seven people were killed and 45 injured.

1976

On May 3, 1976, thirty-three passers-by were injured when a booby-trapped motor scooter exploded at the corner of Ben Yehuda and Ben Hillel Streets. Among those injured were the Greek consul in Jerusalem and his wife. The following day, on the eve of Independence Day, the municipality organized an event at the site of the attack, under the slogan “Nevertheless.”[12]

1979

On January 1, 1979, a car bomb was found opposite Cafe Atara on the pedestrian mall and was neutralized about half an hour before it was to have blown up.

On March 24, 1979, one person was killed and 13 people were injured when an explosive charge blew up in a trash can in Zion Square.

1997

1997 Ben Yehuda Street Bombing
Location Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem
Coordinates 31°48′N 35°12′ECoordinates: 31°48′N 35°12′E
Date September 4, 1997
Target Pedestrian shopping mall
Attack type
suicide bombers
Deaths 5 (+ 3 suicide bombers)
Perpetrators Hamas

On September 4, 1997, three Hamas suicide bombers simultaneously blew themselves up on the pedestrian mall, killing five Israelis. The bombing was carried out by Palestinians from the village of Asira al-shamaliye.[13]

Three 14-year-old girls were killed in the attack: Sivann Zarka, Yael Botvin and Smadar Elhanan.[14] Elhanan was the daughter of peace activist Nurit Peled-Elhanan and the granddaughter of Israeli general and politician Mattityahu Peled.

The family of Yael Botvin, a U.S. citizen, filed a lawsuit in the United States against the Islamic Republic of Iran.[15]

A default judgment of $251 million in compensatory and punitive damages was awarded to the relatives of Americans killed in the attack. There were few assets of the Iranian government in the United States following the judgment. The plaintiffs threatened to seize valuable Persian artifacts located in Chicago museums and sell them for proceeds, leading to the Chicago’s Persian heritage crisis, as well as suing the account of the Bank Melli Iran in the Bank of New York, but having the United States Department of Justice speak as amicus curiae in support of Bank Melli, advising that the bank had no responsibility for turning the funds over, resulted in a ruling against the students.[16]

On December 2, 2013, five U.S. families who were victims of the Iran-backed suicide bombing were awarded $9 million in federal court.[17]

2001

2001 Ben Yehuda Street Bombings
Part of the Second Intifada militancy campaign
Location Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem
Coordinates 31°48′N 35°12′ECoordinates: 31°48′N 35°12′E
Date December 1, 2001
Target Pedestrian shopping mall, responding paramedics
Attack type
suicide bombers and a car bomb
Deaths 11 (+ 2 suicide bombers)
Non-fatal injuries
188

On December 1, 2001, two suicide bombers detonated themselves on Ben Yehuda Street, followed by a car bomb set to go off as paramedics arrived. Thirteen people were killed, including a number of soldiers out of uniform, and 188 were injured. Hamas claimed responsibility,[18] stating that it was in retaliation for the killing of senior Hamas militant Mahmud Abu Hanoud. A Hamas spokesman in Gaza stated that these bombings did not assuage its lust for vengeance and that it would carry out further bombings.[19][20] Lawsuits were filed against Arab Bank, NatWest and Crédit Lyonnais for channeling money to Hamas.[21]

Fatalities

  • Assaf Avitan, 15 [22]
  • Ido Cohen, 17 (died of his wounds on December 8) [23]
  • Michael Moshe Dahan, 21 [24]
  • Ya’akov Danino, 17 [25]
  • Yosef El-Ezra, 18 [26]
  • Sgt. Nir Haftzadi, 19 [27]
  • Yuri (Yoni) Korganov, 20 [28]
  • Golan Turgeman, 15 [29]
  • Guy Vaknin, 19 [30]
  • Adam Weinstein, 14 [31]
  • Moshe Yedid-Levy, 19 [32]

Non-lethal attacks

  • September 8, 1971: A grenade was thrown into the entrance of Cafe Alno on Ben Yehuda Street. It did not explode and there were no injuries.
  • December 12, 1974: An explosive device went off in Ben Yehuda Street. Thirteen people were injured lightly to moderately.
  • April 9, 1976: A car bomb was dismantled on Ben Yehuda Street shortly before it was to have exploded.
  • May 2, 1981: A police sapper was moderately injured by an explosive charge that had been placed in a trash can near Cafe Alno.
  • August 15, 1984: A car bomb was discovered on Ben Yehuda Street and defused about 10 minutes before it was to have exploded. In the car were about 12 kilograms of explosives and three kilograms of iron nails.
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