Sarah Bouhel, a 24-year-old Israeli soldier, froze when she saw a Palestinian at the Beersheva Central Bus Station Monday morning pull out a hand grenade and toss it about 12 feet from her.
“I was in shock,” she recalled. “I didn’t think he would throw it. The soldier I was standing with saw I couldn’t move, so he took my hand and pulled me, shouting at me to run. In the middle of the run, there was a big blast and we fell. I fell on my stomach because of the blast.”
In a phone interview Tuesday from the Soroka Medical Center of the Negev, where she and 63 others injured in the attack were being treated, Bouhel said she received a cut on the back of her head that required four stitches to close. In addition, she said shrapnel from the grenade was imbedded in her legs and lower back.
“Some of them are very deep, some will come out by itself,” she said of the shrapnel. “The doctors don’t want to dig for the deep ones because that could make more damage.”
No one was killed in the attack, although two people were seriously hurt. The soldier with her, Alex Borodoty, 22, was hospitalized with a broken ankle.
“He saved my life,” said Bouhel.
She said the two of them were waiting together with other soldiers to board the bus for the trip to a nearby army base. She had just come from her home in Kiryat Gat, about a half-hour away, and Borodoty had come from his home in Beersheva. She works as a head nurse at the base and is his commander.
After the attack, the Palestinian, identified by authorities as Salem Rajab Sarsour, 29, tossed a second grenade as he ran away. It caused fewer injuries and he was captured moments later when his path was blocked by a parked bus and the driver and others pounced on him.
Israeli authorities were quoted as saying that after his arrest, Sarsour claimed responsibility for the August killing of Rabbi Shlomo Raanan, the grandson of Rabbi Avraham Kook, former chief rabbi of Palestine. He claimed that he started his career as a terrorist by working on the fringes of the Islamic militant group Hamas and was admitted to the militant wing of Hamas after the cold-blooded killing of Rabbi Raanan. There, he reportedly said, he was trained to use hand grenades.
Bouhel said the terror attack caught her and others totally by surprise.
“I’m a bit scared now, but it could have ended a lot worse than it did,” she said. “This was the first time [there has been a terrorist attack] in Beersheva. It was always safe here. I never thought someone would attack me in Beersheva. Now [terrorism] has come to Beersheva and it can come to Kiryat Gat and every small town in Israel. No one is safe. That is why we have to sign an agreement and have peace.”
Asked about the terrorist attack’s impact on the peace talks in rural Maryland, Bouhel said it “kind of complicates things, but we really need peace. We’ve had enough of war. I think peace will be good for both sides.”