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Israelis’ Nerves Stretched To Limit Day After Bombing, American Shot, Killed After Car Accident

With Israelis’ nerves stretched tight following two suicide bombings, Prime Minister Shimon Peres promised Monday that Israel would destroy the militant Palestinian group Hamas, which claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Despite his assurances, Israelis were obviously jittery a day after the bombings killed 27 people - the highest toll in a day since 1978.

The charged atmosphere brought a new casualty: An Arab-American was shot and killed Monday by Israeli civilians who feared he was a terrorist when his rented car crashed into a crowded Jerusalem bus stop.

Hundreds of police officers, convinced they were facing a new terror attack, rushed to the scene. But police later said the driver, Ahmed Abdel Hamida of California, apparently lost control of the car.

An Israeli woman was killed in the crash and 22 people were injured. It was not known whether the bystanders who opened fire faced criminal charges.

A reporter for Israel television said Abdel Hamida “paid the price for the hysteria that has overcome all of us.”

Hundreds of Israelis gathered at the scene of the Jerusalem bombing on Monday, arranging memorial candles on the sidewalk to spell the word “maspik” - Hebrew for “enough.”

Military funerals were held at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl Cemetery for five young soldiers killed in the blast.

Hundreds of people stood in the rain at services for 20-year-old Yonathan Barnea, an army sergeant who was the son of well-known newspaper columnist Nahum Barnea.

“You had no hatred, you had no hatred because I think that you grew up in a place where hatred was not a way of life,” his father said in a eulogy.

A young American couple was among those killed in the Jerusalem bombing - Matthew Eisenfeld, 25, of West Hartford, Conn., and Sara Duker, 22, of Teaneck, N.J. After separate funerals, they were to be buried later this week in adjoining plots in Avon, Conn., a Connecticut funeral home said.

Twenty-five people were killed when a bomb exploded on a crowded Jerusalem city bus during Sunday morning rush hour. Less than an hour later, another bomb exploded near the coastal town of Ashkelon, killing two people. The bombers were apparently among the dead in both blasts.

Peres said the bomber in the Jerusalem attack came from Hebron, the only Palestinian town in the West Bank still under Israeli control.

Peres said the bomber was known by security forces but his identity was not made public.

Both bombers apparently disguised themselves in Israeli army uniforms, Peres said, adding that the Ashkelon bomber even wore an earring. Traditional Palestinian society frowns on men wearing earrings.

Peres criticized Yasser Arafat’s self-rule government for allowing Hamas to operate openly in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.