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Three Israelis killed in restaurant attack

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Three Israeli civilians were killed and 30 other people wounded after a Palestinian gunman shot through the windows of a Tel Aviv restaurant early Tuesday morning, according to Israeli police, who said they fatally shot the gunman.

The Seafood Market restaurant was filled with young people who had been dancing at nearby discotheques when the terror attack occurred at around 2 a.m. (7 p.m. Monday ET). The glass doors and windows were shattered by the gunfire, and sirens filled the streets as ambulances rushed the wounded to hospitals.

"All I saw was people in a panic, everybody screaming," said one woman who watched the shooting from inside the restaurant. "I jumped under a table. I mean, everybody was holding on for dear life -- men and women -- holding on to each other for dear life."

Police said the gunman -- armed with an M-16 automatic rifle -- had thrown a grenade into the restaurant, but it did not explode and that he was wearing a belt of explosives that did not detonate.

A diner told CNN that he left the restaurant when he saw the gunman stab a passer-by with a knife, at which point the diner scuffled with the gunman and shot him. The diner said he, too, was stabbed during the scuffle.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant wing of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, said Tuesday it was responsible for the most recent attack, according to al Jazeera, an Arabic-language television station.

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Ambulance workers said three people were seriously wounded, one person moderately wounded and the rest slightly wounded.

A search was on for another suspect who may have been in the area, police said.

The shooting spree came a day after Israeli forces struck Palestinian targets in retaliation for a weekend of attacks. At least 16 Palestinians were killed in those strikes, and the weekend attacks left 22 Israelis dead. The dead on both sides included children.

Late Monday, Israeli helicopters also struck Palestinian security headquarters in Ramallah near Arafat's compound, Palestinian sources said. The Palestinian Authority president was unhurt, sources said. Two Israeli missiles also hit Arafat's Gaza offices.

In addition, Israeli warplanes launched a missile attack Monday against Palestinian security facilities in Bethlehem, hitting three buildings, Palestinian security sources said. There were no reports of casualties.

Palestinian sources claimed that in one of Monday's attacks, Israeli forces tried to kill a militant leader but instead killed his wife and three of his children. The Israel Defense Forces said the casualties were the result of an "errant" tank round.

Meanwhile, world leaders urged Israelis and Palestinians to renew peace initiatives, such as the peace plan proposed by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is visiting Washington, where he will talk to President Bush and other top U.S. officials this week about the Mideast crisis.

Mubarak called on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to visit Egypt to discuss the Middle East crisis -- on the condition that Arafat also attend. (Full story)

Elsewhere, officials took a different tone, warning of a wider conflict if the fighting that has been going on for nearly 18 months continues.

"We are in a harsh war against a cruel and bloodthirsty enemy," Sharon said Monday, speaking to members of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. "We must not be broken. I am sure that finally we will be victorious and peace will come to this house."

Mustafa Barghouti, president of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, said Sharon was responsible for the worsening conflict. Sharon is trying to "sustain an unsustainable military occupation of the Palestinian people," he said.

"I think he is personally responsible for deaths of not only 1,100 Palestinians but also for almost 300 Israelis because of his policies," Barghouti said.

At least six Palestinians were killed Monday when an Israeli tank shell struck two vehicles near a refugee camp in Ramallah, Palestinian sources said. The shelling came from the settlement of Psagot.

Palestinian sources said they believe the Israelis were trying to kill a leader of Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization that has taken responsibility for attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military.

The leader, Hussein Abu Kwiek, was not in either vehicle. His wife and three of his children were in one vehicle and were killed. Two children in a second vehicle also were killed, sources said.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society identified the victims in one car as Bushra Hussein Abu Kweik, 38; Muhammad Hussein Abu Kweik, 8; Aziz Hussein Abu Kweik, 17; and Bara'a Hussein Abu Kweik, 14. In the other car, the victims were Shaima'a Izz Aldin Abasaleh, 4, and Arafat Ibrahim Almasri, 16, the Red Crescent said.

After the incident, the IDF issued an apology "for the harm caused to innocent Palestinian civilians," saying its intended target was a vehicle carrying an armed Palestinian police officer in Al Ama'rai. The shell overshot its target, striking vehicles in the town of Al Bira, less than a kilometer from the camp, the statement said.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer also expressed sorrow at the loss of civilian lives; the incident, he said, was unintentional.

Israeli army forces stepped up their operations Monday at refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza.

Palestinian security sources said three Palestinians, two of them armed, were killed in Rafah Monday.

In Jenin, Palestinian security sources said Amjad Al-Fakhouri -- a prominent member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- was killed Monday in an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers. A woman also was killed during the Israeli incursion, they said.

Four other civilians, including a young girl, were killed in Jenin, Palestinian sources said . The Palestine Red Crescent Society said at least 40 people were injured there.

The Red Crescent Society said the Israeli army shelled two ambulances, killing the manager of a medical center who was in one of the vehicles and injuring six people, all ambulance-services personnel. Two were reported in critical condition.

Another Palestinian was killed at a roadblock in Qalqiya.

Last week, Israeli forces entered the Jenin and Balata camps in the West Bank. The IDF said the camps have been used as staging areas for bombings and other attacks on Israeli checkpoints and settlements.



 
 
 
 







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