Suicide bombing at Israeli disco kills 17
TEL AVIV, Israel (CNN) -- An apparent suicide bomb attack in front of a crowded discotheque in Tel Aviv late Friday killed at least 17 people, police said. More than 70 people were injured, eight seriously, according to hospital officials.
Israeli television reported the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.
Radio reports said the explosion appeared to be the work of a suicide bomber. It took place at the Dolphinarium Beach, near Tel Aviv's hotel district.
Those reports said the bomber got into a line of people waiting to get into a discotheque facing a boardwalk at the beach.
Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, angrily denounced the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Yasser Arafat, for failing to prevent attacks like Friday's bombing.
"We extend a hand for peace, I think now the whole world can watch and see what the Palestinian Authority is instigating in response," Gissin said.
"The whole world is watching, and I think the whole world will be able to reach the proper conclusion as to who is responsible," he added.
A 20-year-old woman who gave her name only as Vered said, "We were right across the street. We heard a huge explosion, and we ran away."
Another witness quoted by the Associated Press said, "I saw people fly through the air. There were lots of wounded."
The area was said to be crowded at the beginning of the weekend, as young people stayed out late in the warm temperatures.
The latest suicide bombing is one of many in recent weeks. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday's blast.
Danny Naveh, a minister in Sharon's government, said Israel could reconsider the unilateral cease-fire it ordered last week after Friday's bombing. But Gissin said Israel would avoid "unnecessary escalation."
"Our response will come at a time and place that we will decide," he said.
Sunday, a car bomb exploded in central Jerusalem in an area of discotheques and nightclubs called the Russian Compound.On May 18, a suicide bomber with the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas set off a blast outside a shopping mall in the Israeli city of Netanya that killed him and five Israelis.
The Israeli government retaliated for that bombing with attacks by F-16 fighter planes against Palestinians, killing 18.
The latest Israeli-Palestinian fighting broke out eight months ago.
Both sides have accepted the Mitchell Committee's report on how to stop violence in the Middle East in principle, but they have reservations about how to implement it.
The report calls for a freeze on settlement activity, including what the Israelis call the "natural growth" of the settlements. It also calls on the Palestinians to crack down on terrorism.
Israel opposes a total freeze of Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and Gaza, while Palestinians want the report to be implemented as a package, not in stages.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told CNN on Thursday that Sharon "must understand that he must choose between settlements and peace. He cannot have both."
A source close to the Israeli government told Reuters that Sharon, in a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Thursday, described recent Palestinian attacks on Israelis as "intolerable."
"The United States has to put pressure on Arafat to stop the violence. The situation is intolerable. Israel cannot continue in this situation for many days," the source quoted Sharon as saying.
U.S. President George W. Bush late Friday urged Arafat to condemn the latest bombing in Israel and call for an immediate cease-fire.
"I condemn in the strongest terms the heinous terrorist attack ... there is no justification for senseless attacks against innocent civilians," Bush said in a written statement.
Uzi Landau, Israel's interior minister, urged Western governments to end their political support of Arafat's Palestinian Authority. Though Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing, Landau said Arafat "has set an overall policy giving a green light to acts of terrorism."
Landau accused Arafat of smuggling weapons into Palestinian-controlled territory and inciting Palestinian youth into killing themselves in bombings like Friday night's.
"This isn't peace," he said. "This is someone who's preparing an ongoing war."
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