Four killed in Tel Aviv suicide bombing
Israel will not launch major military action in retaliation to Friday night's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, which killed four people and wounded 50 others, senior government sources said yesterday.
Israel will not launch major military action in retaliation to Friday night's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, which killed four people and wounded 50 others, senior government sources said yesterday. The government, however, will increase political pressure on Syria for backing Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the attack, and the Palestinian Authority to act against terror.
At a meeting of security chiefs yesterday, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said the process of transferring security control of West Bank cities to the PA would be frozen, "until further evaluation, in which Israel will examine whether Abu Mazen's (PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas) government has taken the necessary steps against Islamic Jihad and the other terror organizations." Israel believes Islamic Jihad is responsible for the attack.
The dead were identified as Itzik Buzaglo, 40, Ronen Rubenov, 28, Yael Orbach, 28, and Aryeh Nagar, 36.
"The first thing we saw slightly reminded me of the attack that occured not far from here at the Dolphinarium," Magen David Adom paramedic Alon Kotler said describing the attack, which took place at 11:15 P.M. in front of the Stage club near the Tel Aviv promenade. "We saw lots of injured people lying on top of each other at the club's entrance."
Merav, a soldier who was near the scene of the blast, said she was the first to inform MDA about the attack. "They asked me to go to the scene and describe what I saw," she said. "I saw two slightly injured people sitting on the sidewalk and about 15 other injured people on the ground outside the club."
Eli Yehezkel, a taxi driver, was driving by the club when the blast occured. "I saw a huge flame right in front of my eyes. I stopped the cab and ran to help dozens of young people who were lying on the ground bleeding."
Police said their initial investigation showed that the suicide bomber had hidden the medium-sized improvised bomb containing fragments on his body. The blast severely damaged nearby buildings.
Eyewitnesses told police they saw another man who had come with the bomber fleeing the scene. Patrol cars and police boats conducted a search throughout the night for the accomplice, but the search was called off yesterday morning. Police continued to receive reports yesterday that the bomber was dropped off by a white Subaru containing other passengers.
"I was directing a white Subaru that was parked on the sidewalk so my friends could park their car," Eran Jorno, who was lightly injured in the blast, said. "There were four men in the car. One of them, a young guy, got out. The others called him in Arabic, `come back.' Then he looked at me strangely, and blew himself up. Everything went black after that."
Of the 49 wounded, 34 were still hospitalized in the Tel Aviv area as of last night, including one in critical condition and three in serious condition. The rest were lightly injured, suffering from shockwave injuries, shrapnel wounds and other injuries.
Speaking from an undisclosed location in Lebanon, an Islamic Jihad official, who insisted on being identified only by his nickname of Abu Tareq, told The Associated Press that the attack was in retaliation for Israel's violation of the Israeli-Palestinian truce. "The calm period with the [Palestinian] Authority was an agreement for a month, and that has ended," he said. "Israel has not abided by the pacification period. This is the main reason that led to this operation," he said without elaborating.
Earlier, Islamic Jihad officials in the territories denied involvement in the attack, as did other main militant groups.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon consulted by phone over the weekend with Mofaz and Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter. Sharon's bureau published a statement yesterday that the prime minister "did not like" the defense establishment's restrained statement, adding that "we will wait for clarification from the Palestinian Authority."
At yesterday's meeting with senior defense officials, Mofaz said: "Syria continues to sponsor and encourage terror organizations to carry out attacks, which endangers the process with the Palestinians and stability in the region." Mofaz instructed intelligence officials to go to the United States and Europe to present governments there with information linking Islamic Jihad to the attack.
Israel Defense Forces sources said the cell that dispatched the suicide bomber, Abdallah Badran, 21, a student from the village of Deir al Ghusun near Tul Karm, received its instructions directly from Damascus.
Badran's dispatchers released a videotape in which he accused the Palestinian Authority of surrendering to the U.S. military. The IDF sources said the cell to which Badran belonged, many of whose members have been killed or jailed, has been active for the last several years.