Israeli press coverage: a double bombing in Ashdod

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 December 2004



Levinson, J. (2004), "Israeli press coverage: a double bombing in Ashdod", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 13 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Israeli press coverage: a double bombing in Ashdod

Israeli press coverage: a double bombing in Ashdod

On Sunday 14 March 2004, at approximately 16.30 hours, two suicide terrorists exploded bombs at a distance of 100 meters from each other. One bomb went off inside the Ashdod Port area. The other detonated just outside the perimeter fence. This meant that two different administrative jurisdictions were involved. Twelve people (ten Israelis and two terrorists) were killed.

The following morning, the Jerusalem Post carried a headline story surmising that the explosions were planned to be near bromine storage, spreading the chemical throughout an estimated 1.5 km2 area. Main coverage on the front page centered on political implications. A picture carried the caption that ZAKA volunteers were collecting the human remains. These were ZAKA/Ashdod volunteers, although they were using body bags supplied by ZAKA/Jerusalem.

Ha’aretz (Hebrew edition) featured a picture showing general destruction. The accompanying articles raised the issue of security failure. One article described the interval between explosions as three minutes. The first bomb caught people by surprise; the second reportedly caused disorder in the area. Another article contended that it took the police a relatively long time to establish that the explosions constituted a terrorist incident, since they differed from previous terrorist actions. Originally the explosions were thought to be a work accident caused by gas fumes. At least one explosion caused a fire in an adjacent building. The ambulance service reported a large number of injuries from shrapnel. Coverage in the newspaper included the usual political analysis, obituaries of victims, and emotional eyewitness accounts.

The tone of the two popular tabloids in Israel, Ma’ariv and Yedi’ot, was sensationalist. Ma’ariv ran a front-page story under the title “I Lost My Best Friend”. The newspaper gave the estimate that had chemicals caught fire, as was thought to have been planned, deaths would have been in a 4 km radius. According to Ma’ariv, one terrorist wore an explosive belt. The second, dressed in an army uniform, carried his bomb in a hand-held bag. There was one report that only a week before, security forces held a terrorist incident response exercise in the port.

Yedi’ot concentrated on resumés of what had happened and stories about victims. The newspaper did not relate to response issues.

Not reported in any of the newspapers, police sources related that they handled the explosions as separate incidents, assigning different response teams to each bombing site. Regional overall command, however, was unified.

Jay Levinson

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