Police Warned of Imminent Attack, Searched for Terrorists
(IsraelNN.com) Police and security officers frantically searched the city of Jerusalem Thursday after receiving a warning that a terrorist attack was imminent, according to a source quoted by Time Magazine.
The source told the US-based magazine that police received a tip that a suicide bomber was about to enter the capital, and set up checkpoints in a ring on the outskirts of the city.
However, the murderer of students at the Mercaz HaRav Kook Yeshiva in Jerusalem was a local resident of the eastern section of the city and held an Israeli identity card.
"Based on the kind of weapons he was carrying, we think he was part of a terrorist cell and that it was a well-organized attack," said a police official quoted by the magazine.
Voice of Israel government radio reported Friday morning that authorities have found the terrorist's vehicle, which he used as a driver to transport people. They found several bullets and other items in the car, which has been removed for closer scrutiny.
Government Condemns Attack, Continues Talks with PA
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni vowed Thursday night that Israel would continue its talks with the Palestinian Authority despite the slaughter.
The terrorist attack, in eight students were murdered and 11 others wounded, "shows that the Palestinian Authority is not fighting terror hard enough," said Olmert, but added that negotiations over a final status agreement would not be stopped.
The prime minister's aides told reporters there is a direct connection between sources of terror in Gaza and those in Judea and Samaria.
The Foreign Ministry echoed the prime minister's words; spokesman Aryeh Mekel said, "These terrorists are trying to destroy the chances of peace, but we certainly will continue the peace talks."
Speaking on behalf of Abbas, senior PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said the PA chairman condemned the attack, adding that he denounces all attacks that target civilians, whether Arabs or Israelis."
The Hamas terrorist organization that controls Gaza praised the slaughter in a statement to the media, saying "We bless the [Jerusalem] operation. It will not be the last."
International Condemnation, Pressure to Continue Talks
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, issued a statement after Thursday night's massacre that he "condemns in the strongest terms [the] savage attack on a Jewish seminary in west Jerusalem and the deliberate killing and injuring of civilians."
Ban extended condolences to the victims' families. The statement went on to say, "The Secretary-General is deeply concerned at the potential for continued acts of violence and terrorism to undermine the political process, which he believes must be pursued to achieve a secure and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians based on a two-state solution."
US President George W. Bush called the massacre "a barbaric and vicious attack on innocent civilians [that] deserves the condemnation of every nation." He telephoned the Prime Minister to express his condolences.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who this week ordered Israeli leaders to halt the IDF counterterrorism operations in Gaza, called the slaughter an "act of terror and depravity." In a phone conversation with the foreign minister, Rice said the attack "has no place among civilized peoples and shocks the conscience of all peace-loving nations. There is no cause that could ever justify this action."
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the attack was "an arrow aimed at the heart of the peace process so recently revived."
Libya blocked the UN Security Council from debating a draft resolution by the US condemning the attack due to the inclusion of the word "terrorist."
The resolution stated, "The members of the Security Council condemn in the strongest terms the terrorist attack that took place in Jerusalem March 6, 2008 which resulted in the death and injury of dozens of Israeli civilians."
PA Arabs in Gaza held a full-scale celebration Thursday night after the attack, handing out candies and firing gunshots into the air.