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Sunday, Oct. 05, 2003 at 7:43 AM
And the bulk of the assholes here still support these animals.
JERUSALEM — A female suicide bomber calmly walked into a popular Israeli restaurant early Saturday and detonated a 22-pound deadly device that killed up to 19 people, three of them said to be children.
The early-morning blast rocked the ultra-popular Maxim restaurant off its heels, completely toppling the establishment which sat near Haifa (search)'s beach promenade on the southern edge of the city.
Paramedics estimated that at least forty others were injured in the bombing, several of them seriously. Authorities said the bomber walked into the restaurant with the device strapped to his body and, without warning, quickly pulled the plug on it.
Initially there were conflicting reports as to whether or not the assailant was also armed, shooting to death a security guard before entering the building. Police said they are still investigating that theory.
Hours after the explosion, the militant group Islamic Jihan claimed responsibility for the attack. Not long after, speculation grew that the attack could spark Israel to take action against Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The Israeli Cabinet threatened on Sept. 11 to "remove" Arafat, implying either expulsion or assassination, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suggested action would be taken against the Palestinian leader if there was another major suicide bombing with heavy casualties.
The incoming Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (search), condemned Saturday's bombing as an "ugly attack" and urged all Palestinian groups to stop violence against civilians. The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said he appealed to international mediators to ensure that Israel does not retaliate. "We don't want Israel to add fuel to the fire," he said.
David Baker, an official in Sharon's office, said the blast shows that "the Palestinian Authority continues to refuse to take even minimal steps against the terrorist infrastructure."
A motorist, identified only as Navon, said he was near the scene when he heard the blast.
"When I got to the area of the restaurant, we saw smoke all the glass had been blown out," he said. "We went in, about five or six of us, and started to take the wounded out. In truth there was not much to take out. There were not a lot of wounded, just a lot of people strewn on the ground. There was nothing to do, no way to help them."
The blast blew out windows, and others were pockmarked by shrapnel. Walls inside were riddled with holes, wires hung down from the ceiling and clusters of pipes were exposed. Chunks were blown off pillars throughout the restaurant.
Among the wounded were the general manager, technical manager and coach of the Maccabi Haifa football club, team captain Arik Benado said. Players and staff from the club meet at Maxim every Saturday, and other players had been heading to the restaurant at the time of the blast, he said.
Saturday's bombing brought to 103 the number of suicide bombings in the past three years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. In the past, several bombers were stopped outside restaurants, cafes and shopping malls by security guards, either foiling attacks or limiting the casualties.
If it were confirmed the bomber shot the guard before entering the restaurant, it would be a new tactic. Police Commissioner Shlomo Aharonishki said it was not clear whether shots were fired. However, a person dressed in the reflective vest commonly worn by security guard was seen lying face down on Maxim's front steps after the attack.
On Friday, Israel imposed a blanket closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip ahead of Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown Sunday and ends at sundown Monday. Such closures are generally imposed during Jewish holidays because of increased concerns about attacks by Palestinian militants in such periods.
It was the first suicide bombing since twin attacks killed 15 people on Sept. 9, near an army base outside Tel Aviv and at a Jerusalem coffee shop. Those attacks prompted the Cabinet's threat against Arafat.
Since fighting broke out three years ago, more than 431 Israelis have been killed suicide bombings.
Earlier, the violent Hamas group declared that a security barrier Israel is building around the West Bank would not stop suicide bombers from reaching Israeli cities. The militant group also said it would continue to send Palestinians to blow themselves up inside Israel.
"This wall will not protect the Zionist entity and will not stop the attacks of resistance and, God willing, the day will come when this wall will collapse as the Berlin wall collapsed," said a statement, signed by Hamas, posted on a pro-Hamas Web site late Friday.
Earlier this week, the Israeli Cabinet approved a new phase of the barrier project that will add fences deep inside the West Bank to shield four large Jewish settlements. Palestinians and the United States have opposed the path of the barrier, saying it would pre-empt peace agreements and unilaterally define the border of a Palestinian state.
Israeli officials have said wide gaps would be left — for now — between the new fences and the main barrier being built closer to Israel's frontier with the West Bank. Connecting the fences would slice the West Bank in half.
About one-fourth of the barrier project has already been built in the northern West Bank. In places, it runs close to Israel; elsewhere it dips farther into the West Bank, isolating several Palestinian villages and cutting some residents off from their land.
Israel says the barrier is essential to try to stop Palestinian suicide bombers and other attackers from reaching Israel, where they've killed hundreds during fighting that's lasted three years. In an interview published Saturday in The Washington Post, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Israel's effort to dampen criticism by leaving gaps in the new phase of the fence was not satisfactory.
Powell indicated that the route should stick to the "green line," the frontier between Israel and the West Bank before the 1967 Mideast War.
"The more you intrude in Palestinian areas and the more it looks like it could be contiguous intrusion around large sections of Palestinian land that would prejudge subsequent negotiations as to what a Palestinian state may look like, that's a problem," Powell said.
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