JERUSALEM, July 16. A bomb being carried by two Arab terrorists detonated prematurely today at 1:30 a.m. about one kilometer from the Maccabiah stadium in Jerusalem where Opening Ceremonies were being held for the 16th World Maccabiah Games, according to Joshua Ronen and Maia Ridberg of The Jerusalem Post.
The blast took place on the border between Jewish and Arab sections of Jerusalem. Both terrorists were killed in the blast.
Security officials speculate that the two Palestinians had intended to set off the bomb around the time of the opening ceremony, and died when it went off prematurely.
The bombers were identified as Salam Talab Dirawi, 19, and Ibrahim Mohammed, 21, members of Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, respectively. Both were from villages around Bethlehem. They were killed instantly in a huge explosion just after 1:30 yesterday morning in an area between Jerusalem's Talpiot industrial zone and the city's Patt intersection.
The blast was so loud that residents from as far away as the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona were awakened by it, witnesses said.
The remains of the bodies of the two terrorists were discovered by police in a field not far from the Beit Safafa neighborhood.
Jerusalem police chief Cmdr. Mickey Levy said that the attack did not come as any surprise, as police have received repeated general warnings about intended terror attacks in the capital.
Levy said that the bomb, which he described as medium-sized, would "undoubtedly have caused many casualties if it had gone off in a public area." Senior police officials estimate that the two Palestinians did not intend to be suicide bombers, but were preparing to place the bomb as close to the stadium as they could.
Even before yesterday morning's abortive attack, Jerusalem police had been on heightened alert ahead of last night's opening ceremony, which was attended by President Moshe Katsav, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, and other prominent figures. In security unprecedented for the Maccabiah since they were first held in Tel Aviv in 1932, over 1,000 policemen patrolled the area near the stadium.
In addition to the security warnings about impending terror attacks, last night's event got under way under the shadow of the previous tragic opening of the Maccabiah Games, when a shoddily constructed footbridge collapsed as the Australian delegation was approaching the National Stadium in Ramat Gan for the opening ceremony. Four Australians were killed and dozens more injured when they plunged into the polluted waters of the Yarkon River.
Last night, just weeks after the games were nearly canceled or postponed, over 3,000 athletes from 47 countries competing in 26 sports turned out for the opening of the 16th Maccabiah games.
America's Lenny Krayzelburg, a triple gold medalist at last year's Olympic Games, commenting on security precautions, said: "I guess it comes with the territory." Krayzelburg, 25, who was personally invited to the Maccabiah by Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, is missing the World Championships in Japan in order to compete here. He sees the Games as an opportunity to show how important Israel is to the Diaspora communities.
"The first time I was invited, I just didn't have the opportunity to do so," Krayzelburg said, referring to the 15th Maccabiah in 1997. "I have wanted to come to [these Games] for a year and a half."
Krayzelburg has no regrets that he came. Despite the security risk, he is overjoyed that because he is Jewish, he has the opportunity to experience Israeli culture.
"I think Israel is a great example of how people sacrifice for other Jews," he said. "I'm definitely going to come back and tour the country a little more."
And regarding the security risk, Krayzelburg, who went to school at the University of Southern California, sees just as much a risk in living in Los Angeles.
"There are six million people living here every day, and they get on fine," Krayzelburg said. "You can be a victim of violence anywhere, especially in LA."