Thursday, January 19, 2006

Suicide bomber wounds 16 near old central bus station in Tel Aviv


A suicide bomber blew up near the old central bus station in southern Tel Aviv at around 3:45 P.M. on Thursday, wounding at least 16 people.

Islamic Jihad said that it carried out the attack. The terrorist group has claimed responsibility for each of the six suicide bombings in Israel since a truce took effect last February.

Police said that the suicide bomber was the only person killed in the explosion.

The blast occurred at a shawarma stand close to the bus station, at the junction of Neveh Sha'anan and Salomon streets, in an area normally crowded with shoppers and travelers.

Witnesses said the bomber entered the restaurant pretending to be a peddler selling disposable razors. According to police, the bomber blew himself up in the restaurant's bathroom and may have been trying to prepare the explosive device when it went off prematurely.

Of the wounded, one person was in serious condition, four people sustained moderate wounds and nine others were lightly hurt, the television said.

All the wounded were evacuated from the site of the attack within a short time of the blast. They were taken to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon and Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.

After the blast, a crowd gathered outside the restaurant. An elderly man wearing a felt hat wept."There was a huge boom near... a restaurant," witness Ronit Lis told Reuters. "Everything turned black and I ran away. They began to close the area down and there are a lot of ambulances in the area."

A witness, who identified himself only as Itzik, said he was eating at a fast-food stand when he began to suspect the man standing next to him."All of a sudden a policeman came, he pulled him out, and started searching him," he told Israel Radio. The suspect fled, Itzik said, and five minutes later the explosion was heard.

Israel said that the blame for the attack lay at the feet of the Palestinian Authority, which it said was doing nothing to fight terrorism. "The terror attack in Tel Aviv is a direct result of the Palestinian Authority's glaring indifference to preventing terror against Israel," David Baker, an official in the Prime Minister's Office, told Haaretz. "The PA continues its policy of refusing to take any steps whatsoever to prevent this terror, and ignoring its commitments to do so. It continues to sit idly by and do nothing."

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, condemned the attack, calling it an act of sabotage against Palestinian parliamentary balloting scheduled for next Wednesday.

"We condemn this attack," he said. "This is an attack to sabotage the Palestinian elections and sabotage the efforts being exerted to revive the peace process after the elections."

In the wake of the blast, the police raised the level of alert across the whole country, Channel 10 TV reported. Talking to reporters at the site of the attack, senior police officials said that it was too early to provide details of how the attack was carried out. A Palestinian suicide bomber last struck in Israel on December 5, killing five people outside a shopping mall in the coastal city of Netanya.