All 15 of the victims of Tuesday night's suicide bombing at a Rishon Letzion pool hall had been identified by Wednesday evening. Authorities said that identifying the bodies was complicated by damage from the blast.
Police said that the bomber was carrying a suitcase filled with explosives and was also wearing an explosives belt. The total weight of the explosives is believed to have been between 7 and 8 kilos, and contained metal shards and nuts and bolts, in order to maximize the number of injuries.
Police also suspect that the bomber was assisted by other people, and that he was familiar with the pool hall in which the blast took place.
The victims are: Pnina Hikri, 60, from Tel Aviv; Sharuk Rassan, 42, from Holon; Shoshana Magmari, 51, from Tel Aviv; Anat Temporush, 36, from Ashdod; Haim Rafael, 64, from Tel Aviv; Daliah Massah, 64, from Nahalat Yehudah; Nir Lobatin, 31, from Herzliya; Avi Biaz, 26, from Nes Tziona; Rahamim Kimche, 58, from Rishon Letzion; Edna Cohen, 61, from Holon; Yisrael Shikar, 45, from Rishon Letzion; Yitzhak Bablar, 58, and his wife Esther, 54, from Bat Yam; Regina Malka Boslan, 62, from Tel Aviv and Nawa Hinawi, 51, from Tel Aviv.
Seven of the victims have been laid to rest; Rahamim Kimche will be buried at 5:30 P.M. Thursday in Rishon Letzion.
Of those wounded in the attack, 36 are still in hospital, 15 with serious injuries.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon curtailed his visit to Washington and flew home after hearing of the bombing.
"I say today Israel will not surrender to blackmail... he who rises up to kill us, we will pre-empt it and kill him first," Sharon told reporters before leaving the United States.
The attack is the largest terror incident since Israel ended its Operation Defensive Shield, and the first major attack in Rishon Letzion over the past 19 months. Security sources said they had presumed Palestinians would resume terror activities, but did not expect a major attack so soon.
Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack in a message to the Al Manar television station in Lebanon. Israel security officials said Wednesday that they believed the bomber had come from the Gaza Strip.
Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza City, said he could not confirm the claim. "We do not have any clear evidence or information except what we are seeing on TV. But if it is a martyrdom operation, it means that Israel has lost its war against the Palestinians and the Palestinian resistance has proved that it is capable of reaching the enemy everywhere."
The Palestinian Authority strongly condemned the bombing in a statement. "The Palestinian leadership will take firm and strict measures against those who are involved in this operation and will not be light-handed in punishing those who have caused great harm to our cause," it said.
Sharon, however, said the bombing was "proof of the true intentions of the person leading the Palestinian Authority." In a clear reference to Arafat, he said that those who spoke of "millions of martyrs" were guilty of the attack.
The radio, quoting unnamed Palestinian officials, said the PA was furious at Hamas for the timing of the attack, which occurred during Sharon's talks with Bush and appeared to reinforce the prime minister's hard line against the Palestinians.
The Palestinian bomber struck just after 11 P.M., the very moment Sharon was sitting down for talks with Bush in Washington.
In an apparent reference to the IDF offensive of the last few weeks, which followed a wave of suicide bombings in Israel, Sharon said: "The operation has yielded tremendous achievements but our work is not done. The battle continues and will continue until all those who believe that they can make gains through the use of terror will cease to exist."
"Israel will act the same as any democracy that protects itself. Israel will act like any other democracy which fights the forces of darkness. Israel will continue to uproot the terror infrastructure," Sharon said.
Town mayor: Pool hall built using sub-standard materialsRishon Letzion Mayor Nitzan said Wednesday that the pool hall was an unlicensed structure built with a material implicated in last year's deadly Jerusalem wedding hall collapse in which dozens of celebrants died.
The Tuesday blast caused the roof of the hall to collapse, causing further injuries and complicating rescue efforts.
"The entire building lacks permits, it's built with Pal-Kal," Nitzan said, referring to a lightweight roofing material considered unsafe for use in construction projects. He said the city had been engaged in legal wrangling over the building for more than a year, but had been unable to close the structure.
"Unfortunately, the mills of justice work slowly. No one has permits to operate any business within the building," Nitzan continued. "This is an illegal gambling club. I saw the slot machines today. A number of times in the past we cleared slot machines out of the place, and destroyed them. But, to my chagrin, the owner continued to operate, and we did not have the authority to close it down."
He said the building was now likely to be condemned and razed.