Bomber, 3 women killed in Tel Aviv blast
Palestinian official: Peace process 'on its dying bed'
March 21, 1997
Web posted at: 5:40 p.m. EST (2240 GMT)
In this story:
TEL AVIV, Israel (CNN) -- A suicide bomber blew himself up in
a crowded Tel Aviv outdoor cafe Friday, killing at least
three other people and injuring more than 40 others. Many
patrons were dressed in costumes to celebrate the Jewish
holiday of Purim.
The militant Islamic group Hamas claimed responsibility for
the attack. Israel immediately sealed the West Bank and Gaza
Strip, barring all Palestinians from entering Israel.
The death toll rose to four after an injured woman died at
Tel Aviv's Ichilov hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Two other Israeli women died at the scene.
Among the injured was a 6-month-old baby, who was burned over
a large portion of his body, authorities said. The bomb was
studded with nails for more deadliness.
A caller to Israeli Radio who claimed to represent Hamas said
the Islamic fundamentalist group was behind the attack.
Police received a similar call.
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat condemned the
explosion, the first after a yearlong lull in suicide
bombings. Arafat called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu and Israeli President Ezer Weizman to express his
'He looked strange'
Authorities said it appeared from the disfigurement of one of
the bodies that the suicide bomber entered the cafe with
explosives strapped to him.
Pieces of chairs and tables and shards of glass littered the
street. A waiter at the Apropo Coffee House on Ben Gurion
Boulevard, a main thoroughfare in downtown Tel Aviv, said he
saw a suspicious man walking around on the cafe's patio
carrying two bags.
"He looked strange," waiter Gad Ben-Tzur told The Associated
Press. "I was trying to pick up an order. A second later,
there was a tremendous flash and he blew up."
The explosion could be heard throughout the city, which was
crowded with costumed people celebrating the holiday of Purim
that began Thursday night. During last year's holiday, a
suicide bomb at Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Center shopping mall
killed 13 Israelis, many of them children.
Israel had warned of possible trouble
The attack came at a time of high alert. Israeli security
forces had warned of possible terrorist attacks after Israel
began construction this week on a controversial housing
project in predominately Arab East Jerusalem.
Palestinian officials, including Arafat, strongly opposed the
construction but urged followers not to resort to violent
Israeli government spokesman Moshe Fogel accused the
Palestinian Authority of giving "a green light" for Friday's
(582 K / 24 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"I think it is totally unacceptable to have civilians being
held ransom in the political process," Fogel told CNN. "We
want to make peace but we are not willing to commit suicide."
(367 K / 17 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Palestinian Council member Hanan Ashrawi expressed sorrow
over the bombing. "It is indeed sad to see Israeli civilians
becoming victims of the volatile situation, and we hope that
the violence will stop."
She denounced Israeli accusations that Arafat had provoked
the attack by releasing accused terrorists from prisons.
"That is entirely untrue," Ashrawi said. "The Palestinian
Authority has done everything possible ... to keep the
situation calm and to prevent violence.
But when asked if there was still a peace process with
Israel, she replied: "It is very, very hard to tell if there
is one. It is on its dying bed."
(150 K / 7 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Netanyahu blamed for tensions
"We have been pushed to this situation by the positions of
Prime Minister Netanyahu," said Marwan Kanafani, a spokesman
Asked if he meant the groundbreaking in East Jerusalem,
Kanafani said, "Yes." He denied that the Palestinian
Authority had released any terrorists from prison and said
the allegation that the authority encouraged terrorism was
Netanyahu, who rushed to the scene after meeting with his
senior advisers, said the peace process and the goal of
ending terrorism should remain separate issues from the
Israel housing project.
"The peace process is threatened not by the periodic
disagreements, but by the mentality that says that if we have
a disagreement we can go and blow them up," Netanyahu said.
"It is threatened by the idea that violence is sanctioned
despite negotiations, that you can kill women and kids in a
cafe. All the attempts to explain this away, they are a
threat to the peace process," he said.
"So I would advise the international community to do the
right thing, and that is for them to understand nothing
A Hamas leader applauds 'martyrdom'
The explosion occurred about 1:45 p.m. (1145 GMT), just yards
away from City Hall. One witness said about 20 or 30 people
were near the bomber when the explosion went off.
Police helicopters circled above the scene and police dogs
searched neighboring buildings to see whether more bombs had
Meanwhile, in the West Bank town of Nablus, Hamed Bitawi, a
Hamas leader, told more than 10,000 supporters during a
rally, "I have good news for you. There is a suicide
operation in Tel Aviv."
The crowd clapped and responded with shouts of "Allahu
Akbar," or God is Great.
"This is the only language the occupiers understand, the
language of martyrdom," Bitawi said.
- Tel Aviv blast kills four, injures dozens - March 21, 1997
- Israelis, Palestinians clash near Bethlehem - March 20, 1997
- Court lets disputed Jerusalem home-building continue - March 19, 1997
- Netanyahu defends Jerusalem
housing project - March 18, 1997
- Israelis to begin work on Jerusalem settlements - March 17, 1997
- With condolence visit to Israel, King Hussein spurs talks - March 16, 1997
- Netanyahu accuses Palestinians of creating 'crisis' - March 11, 1997
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