Sat, Jan 21, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Palestinian suicide bombing wounds 22

RESTAURANT BLAST The Tel Aviv bombing, claimed by Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, came as Palestinians get ready for next week's polls

THE GUARDIAN , TEL AVIV

A Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself and injured 22 others on Thursday when he detonated his explosives in a busy restaurant in Tel Aviv, six days before Palestinian elections.

There could have been more casualties, but the explosives appeared to detonate away from the restaurant's customers, leading police to speculate that the blast occurred prematurely.

Police said the bomber posed as a peddler selling disposable razor blades when he entered a small kebab restaurant in Tel Aviv's old bus station district.

Yehiel Ohana, who works in a nearby store, said the bomber aroused his suspicions because of his unsteady gait.

"The guy was standing at the corner of the street, looking like he was waiting for someone," he said.

"He swayed strangely. Then he went into the shwarma place, and two to three seconds later, we heard the explosion. Everything shuddered. We entered the shwarma place, and we saw him lying on the floor, and then we understood he was a suicide bomber."

The blast ripped off fittings in the restaurant, but most of the injured people were sitting outside. The two brothers who own the restaurant were working behind the counter but were unharmed. Arieh Sharon, one of the owners, said the bomber was speaking Hebrew.

Police initially thought the blast may have been from a gas explosion or a bombing carried out by Israeli gangsters.

The blast came as Palestinian political parties canvassed for votes in next week's parliamentary elections. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, said the attack was meant to disrupt the elections.

"This is sabotage and aimed at ... the elections, not only the elections, but also the security of Palestinians," Abbas told reporters at his office in Ramallah. "The culprits must be punished."

The bomber was identified as Sami Antar, 22, a resident of the Balata refugee camp in Nablus. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

There have been six suicide bombings since the beginning of last year, all by Islamic Jihad.

Abu Udai, a senior member of al-Aqsa told the Ynet, an Israeli Web site, that the attack in Tel Aviv "is a blessed operation that comes in response to recent Israeli assassinations."

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