American Student Killed in Israel Bombing

Mar 07, 2003 03:56 PM EST

JERUSALEM – After a momentary period of relative calm, tensions sparked as a suicide bomber hit Haifa, Israel, March 4. Among the 15 dead was an American teenager whose family emigrates from New Hampshire 14 years ago.

Abigail Leitel, 14, was one of the nine teenagers killed when a suicide bomber sat quietly in the bus before blowing himself up. She was headed towards her friends house from school when the explosion occurred.

"We are not Jewish," said Abigail’s mother, Hendi Leitel.

“My sister was an innocent child," said Abigail’s older sister, Josiah. "She loved people and she loved nature. She knew she loved God and that he loved her."

The suicide bomber was identified as 20-year-old computer student Mahmoud Amadan Salim Kawasme. According to the local newspaper, Kawasme was carrying a note with quotations from the Koran.

No organization has claimed responsibility for the so called “medium sized” bombing, however, the office of Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat responsible.

Leitel was among two victims from the Haifa’s Really School. Both Leitel and Mandalovich, 13, were involved with the Children Teaching Children program of the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace in Givat Haviva, Israel. The center’s director of pubic relations, Mohammad Darawashe said the program “teaches towards pluralism, tolerance and coexistence."

"We send our condolences to their families, to their classmates, teachers and the residents of Haifa," Darawashe said. "We send our deep sympathy to all the families of the political violence, Israelis and Palestinians alike, especially those who lost their dear ones in the last 24 hours in Haifa and Gaza," he said, in reference to Israeli military action in Gaza.

"We also reaffirm our denunciation of any violent act against innocent civilians, and especially when it is directed against children, who have become a primary target in the up scaling conflict in our region."

By Pauline J.