Jerusalem, Aug 20 (Reuters): Body bags piled up so fast in the middle of a roundabout on a Jerusalem street yesterday night that emergency workers could barely keep from stacking them one on top of the other.
All around, the carnage left by a Palestinian suicide bombing on a city bus packed with ultra-Orthodox Jews littered the pavement — severed arms, legs, a lower torso and bits of flesh and bone. The stench of burnt flesh hung in the air.
As mangled bodies were pulled one after another from the shattered double-length bus, workers rushed to sheath them in white plastic.
The death count soon climbed to at least 20. The smaller bundles held the corpses of children, some of them babies in diapers.
Zelig Feiner, an official of ZAKA, an ultra-Orthodox burial society that dispatches crews to all Israeli bomb scenes, said the sight they met was as gruesome as any they had encountered in 34 months of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
“There were small babies bleeding on the ground. One of our workers was leaning over an infant, no more than 15 -months-old, giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation,” he said. “It was hopeless.”
A bleeding woman clutched at her hair cropped close in accordance with ultra-Orthodox tradition after her wig was ripped off in the blast.
A videotape released by the militant Islamic group Hamas, which claimed responsibility for the bombing, showed a pudgy, 29-year-old with a black beard and glasses holding an assault rifle in one hand and a Quran in the other.
He was believed to have disguised himself in the black garb of ultra-religious Jews before making his way onto a bus in the ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of Beit Yisra’el.
It lies near the line known as “The Seam” which divides mainly Jewish West Jerusalem and the predominantly Arab eastern part of the holy city.
His victims had been on their way back from nightly worship at the ancient Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, in Jerusalem’s Old City.
His explosive load was packed with metal pellets and shards for maximum death and destruction. Blood spattered the pavement in front of a synagogue and a kindergarten.