Haifa (Israel), Oct. 4 (Reuters): A Palestinian suicide bomber blew up in a crowded Israeli beach restaurant in the city of Haifa today, killing at least 19 other people and wounding dozens including children, rescue workers said.
The attack on the Jewish sabbath, just a day before the start of the solemn Yom Kippur fast day, was likely to draw public and Right-wing pressure on the government to make good its threat to “remove” Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. Palestinian Prime Minister-designate Ahmed Qurie condemned the blast, which dealt a new setback to a US-backed peace plan, and urged Islamic militants to halt attacks on civilians. An Israeli spokesman said Qurie’s appeal was “too little and too late”.
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat condemned the bombing , saying in a statement that the attack gave Israel a pretext to obstruct international peace efforts and contradicted Palestinian national interests. “President Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian leadership strongly condemn the ‘explosion operation’ at Maxim restaurant in Haifa in which Israeli civilians and Arabs were killed,” the written statement said.
“There was a security guard outside but the attacker managed to enter and blow up,” Israeli national police chief Shlomo Aharonishky said outside the charred exterior of the Maxim restaurant in the northern port city. Hospital officials said many children were among the wounded. The explosion occurred on a sun-drenched day near a popular Haifa beach.
“There are 51 injured and about 19 dead,” said a spokesman for the Magen David Adom ambulance service.
The militant group Islamic Jihad said it was behind the bombing and named the bomber as a woman from the West Bank city of Jenin. The group said the woman was called Hanadi Tayseer Jaradat, a single woman who practised law in Jenin and had studied in Jordan. It said she was 29, although it had earlier given her age as 19. It said the attack was in revenge for the deaths of her brother and cousin — Islamic Jihad members who were killed by Israeli troops.
“There was a very big explosion, which blew out the windows. It was horrible,” a witness, identified only as Eliad, told Channel One television.
Yesterday, Hamas said a barrier Israel is building in the West Bank would not prevent attacks on Israelis and doomed the US-backed peace “road map” to failure. The Hamas statement intensified a Palestinian campaign against the barrier.
“Israeli citizens were once again struck by Palestinian terrorists,” said David Baker, an official in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office. “This is a direct result of the Palestinian authority’s unwillingness to dismantle its terrorist infrastructure and make the necessary arrests of wanted terrorists,” he said.
In a harsh condemnation of the attack, Qurie issued his clearest call for an end to violence since he was nominated by Arafat last month to replace Mahmoud Abbas as Prime Minister. “Mr Qurie urged the Palestinian people and all its national and Islamic factions to practise self-restraint and to fully halt these actions that target civilians,” his office said in a statement.