Attacks draw condolences, cheers in Middle East
In the West Bank towns of Nablus and Ramallah, some Palestinians cheered and distributed candy to passers-by, and Iraqi television played a patriotic song that began "Down with America!" as it showed the World Trade Center towers collapsing.
In a coffee shop in the Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem, taxi driver Fahami Abunab, 25, pointed to a TV screen, full of chaos in New York and Washington, D.C., and said, "This is the punishment of God. America is a superpower and thinks it can take the position of God. But God is greater than America. This is a gift from God for the Palestinian and Iraqi people.
"We live in fear from Israel and America," he added. "God wants to show America how to live in fear."
From Ramallah to Gaza, however, the majority of Palestinians interviewed said they condemned the mass murder of civilians and felt sympathy for the families of the victims.
"We bury our dead day by day," said Ibrahim Abusheikh, 38, director of the youth department in the Palestinian Ministry of Sports in Gaza City.
"We know how they feel. We condemned what happened today in the United States."
At Jerusalem's Yehuda Halevi public religious school, a meeting of parents and teachers was disrupted by the pounding of "redial" keys on cell phones as anxious parents tried to reach family and friends in the United States.
Nomi Atia feared for the safety of her brother-in-law, who works on Wall Street in New York City. Debbie Cassuto, 39, an archaeology student with joint Israeli-American citizenship, said yesterday's attacks "show that any place, anywhere, is vulnerable."
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, addressing the nation last night, announced that today would be a national day of mourning in Israel.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said, "We are completely shocked. It's unbelievable."
He extended "my condolences and the condolences of the Palestinian people to the American president, President Bush, to his government and the American people for this terrible act."
At Jerusalem's King David Hotel, about 500 Americans — many from New York and New Jersey — had just arrived on a United Jewish Communities solidarity mission designed to show support for Israel. "We're all Israelis now, I guess," said Michael Cominsky, a lawyer from Utica, N.Y., who is part of the mission.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and the government of Jordan expressed their shock and condolences.
On the streets of many Arab cities, however, reaction was mixed.
Izzat Hassan Ali, who owns the Jihad grocery in Cairo, said he felt nothing but pleasure at the thought of Americans dying.
"As they did to other people (it) is happening to them now. They hit innocent people in Afghanistan and Iraq, and now it backfired on them," he said, in an apparent reference to the Persian Gulf War and the U.S. strike on Afghanistan after the 1998 embassy bombings.
Anger in the Arab and Islamic world at the United States is at a fever pitch these days because of the almost year-old Palestinian intifada. Palestinians blame Washington for supporting Israel and giving it lethal weapons that have been used to bomb Palestinian towns.
In other reaction:
• Many countries beefed up security at American embassies, and President Bush put all American military forces overseas on high alert.
• Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the attacks, calling them a "blatant challenge to humanity" in a somber televised address yesterday. The attacks "overstepped national borders," he said after offering his condolences.
Putin said the attacks "once again underline the importance of Russia's proposal to unite the world community's efforts to combat terrorism, this plague of the 21st century." It was an apparent reference to the war against Chechen rebels the Kremlin calls international terrorists.
• "This mass terrorism is the new evil in our world today," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair. "It is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of human life."
• Pope John Paul II condemned the "unspeakable horror" and said he was praying for the victims' souls and for their families.
• "This portends the end of the world," said Ekima Ibass, a civil servant in Congo's capital, Kinshasa. "It could be the beginning of a new world war."