Survivors recount moments of horror
Heartbreaking day: Son of Tel Aviv bombing victim Philip Balhasan recounts moments of horror before his father died; nine people killed after Palestinian suicide bomber detonates himself at fast food stand near old central bus station; Rice calls Livni to offer condolences
(VIDEO) Day of terror: Nine people were murdered in Tel Aviv Monday and more than 60 were wounded after a suicide bomber detonated himself at the city's old central bus station.
The ninth victim in Monday's attack was identified on Tuesday as Marcel Cohen, a 73-year-old tourist from Nice, France.
Cohen was in Israel to attend the wedding of her grandchild and spend Passover with her family of 11 grandchildren, three daughters who live in France and a son who lives in Jerusalem.
She will be laid to rest Tuesday afternoon in Jerusalem and her three daughters will arrive in Israel after Passover which ends on Wednesday evening.
By Monday night, 36 of those injured in the attack remained in hospitals in the Tel Aviv area. One of those wounded is in critical condition, another one is in very serious condition, eight are in serious condition, 15 sustained moderate wounds, and 11 were said to be suffering from light injuries.
Authorities released the names of eight blast victims for publication by nighttime, and the nineth victim, Marcel Cohen, was identified Tuesday afternoon:
- David Shaulov, 29, from Holon
- Philip Balhasan, 45, from Ashdod
- Victor Erez, 60, from Givataim
- Binyamin Chafuta, 47, from Lod
- Lily Yunes, 42, from Oranit
- Rosalia Basnia, 48, a Romanian foreign worker
- Bodha Piroshka, 50, a Romanian foreign worker
- Ariel Darhi, 31 from Bat Yam
- Marcel Cohen, 73, from Nice, France
Terror in Tel Aviv (Video: Shai Rosenzweig)
Gifts for the children
Philip Balhasan's relatives said he traveled to Tel Aviv with his two children, Linor and Uri, after promising to buy them CDs and computer games for Passover. The family was apparently standing next to the fast food stand at the time of the explosion.
Balhasan, who was still conscious, yelled out to his son to grab his cellular phone and call his mother to inform her of the attack. The son, Uri, recounted the moment of horror: "When we heard the blast, dad wrapped his arms around me and Linor and hugged us tightly. Then he said 'grab the phone, call mom and tell her about the attack.'" Shortly thereafter, Balhasan collapsed, but police officers who led him to an ambulance were able to talk to him and heard him say he was hurt by shrapnel and by the force of the blast.
It appears some of the shrapnel hit Balhasan's heart and he died on the way to the hospital.
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Balhasan's wife, Etti, was at work when she received her son's call. Her managers quickly drove her to Tel Aviv hospitals so she could look for her husband. After failing to locate him, the wife was forced to head to the forensics institute, where she identified her husband's body.
The two children, Uri and Linor, sustained light wounds and were released from hospital following treatment. At this time, relatives are still in shock over the day's events, with Uri constantly repeating: "Dad was on the floor."
Balhasan's brother-in-law, Emil, said "Philip loved to laugh and was loved everywhere. He had a presence. He was a great father." Balhasan is survived by his wife Etti and four children, Liran, 21, Lital, 19, Linor, 15, and Uri, 12.
Pregnant wife receives terrible news
David Shaulov was killed while on his lunch break. His wife, Ludmila, 27, is in her ninth month of pregnancy and received the terrible news at hospital, after heading there earlier in the morning because she felt she was about to give birth.
Ludmila attempted to call her husband after hearing about the attack, but received no answer. She later insisted on heading to the forensics institute against the advice of doctors in order to be with the family at the time the body was identified. The couple moved to Israel in 1990, and David's brother, Yossi, said: "David was keeping the entire family afloat. He always helped and supported everyone. I don't know what we'll be doing without him now."
Shaulov is survived by his wife, who is about to give birth to a girl, and by two children, Idan, 6, and Karin, 4.
Security guard killed
Binyamin Chafuta, 47, was the security guard positioned at the entrance to the fast food stand at the time of the bombing. Chafuta worked as a guard for many years, and started working at the shawarma stand following the previous attack at the site earlier this year.
Chafuta's relatives said they felt as if he bid them farewell during the Passover holiday.
"He loved to laugh, to eat and to drink, and we never saw him as happy as he was during those two holiday days," his wife Miriam said. His older sister, Rachel Cohen, said: "Binyamin loved life, loved the family." The sister said she asked Chafuta whether he was scared to perform his job, but he replied: "Why would a terrorist want to come for a second time to the same place and carry out an attack?"
Chafuta's brother, Jackie, said: "I called people who worked with him in order to find out what happened to him because I didn't find him in hospital, and then I heard someone on the other end of the line say: 'Binyamin is dead, Binyamin is dead.' Then I realized I won't be seeing him alive."
'Lily was a great mother'
Many relatives and friends arrived at the Yunes family home to offer their condolences after learning that Lily Yunes, 43, died in the terror attack in Tel Aviv.
"Nothing can be done, it's destiny," Yunes' son yelled out. "Don't worry dad, it will be alright."
Yunes is survived by her husband and four children, Lidor, 24, Asaf, 22, Bat-El, 17, and Tsach, 10, who was wounded in the attack, along with Lidor's girlfriend, a French tourist.
Lily's brother-in-law, Tzemach Elias, said: "She was blossoming, a great mother and a model woman. I don't know how this happened to us. It's fate."
Taxi driver Victor Erez, 60, lost a leg several weeks before the Six Days Wars after sustaining wounds at the Erez crossing, after a vehicle he was traveling in went over a landmine. Following the incident, he changed his last name to Erez in a bid to change his fortunes. His young sister, 51-year-old Yafit Hajaj, lives in London and arrived in Israel for the holiday. She never imagined the trip would end so tragically.
Hajaj said she came to celebrate the brit (circumcision) of Erez's first grandson. "Exactly a week and a half ago he served as his godfather, and it was great joy," she said.
"We received the news at 6:30 p.m." she said. "I was shocked to receive the news, to see how ugly people can be. How can a child-terrorist ruin families? I'm still not digesting it."
Meanwhile, the family decided not to tell Erez's mother about her son's death. Nephew Meir Hajaj said: "My grandma, his mother, is very old, so we prefer not to tell her. Only 10 months ago, when a younger son died, we told her and she took the news very hard."
Rice offers condolences
Meanwhile, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice phoned Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to offer her condolences. Rice condemned the terror attack and offered her condolences to families of those murdered in the bombing, as well as well-wishes to those wounded in the attack.
Livni told Rice responsibility for the attack lies with the Palestinian Authority, regardless of the terror group that carried out the bombing.
Monday's bombing at the "Rosh Ha'ir" shawarma stand shook the entire area surrounding the old Tel Aviv central bus station around 1:30 p.m. The huge blast was heard kilometers away from the attack scene. An earlier attack at the same location earlier this year left more than 30 people wounded, but Monday's blast was much more powerful and deadly.
Residents crowd at scene of attack (Photo: AP)
Six people were pronounced dead at the scene, while another two were pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. A female victim died on the operating table later on.
According to a videotape released by the Islamic Jihad, the bombing was carried out by Sami Salim Khamed, 21, who left from the Jenin area en route to the attack. Islamic Jihad members boasted over the fact the IDF was not able to stop the suicide bomber even though troops operated in Jenin throughout the night.
Security officials convened in Tel Aviv Monday evening to discuss Israel's response to the bombing. The recommendations formulated during the session will be presented to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Tuesday morning by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.
Miri Chason, Meital Yasur Beit-Or, Avi Cohen, Raanan Ben-Zur, Eli Senyor, and Shmulik Hadad contributed to the story