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Israeli police: Four dead in Tel Aviv bombing

As many as 65 injured in suicide blast
The suicide bombing occurred outside a beachfront nightclub in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Acts of terror
Tel Aviv (Israel)

TEL AVIV, Israel (CNN) -- Less than three weeks after Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to a cease-fire amid newfound optimism about the Mideast peace process, a suicide bomber attacked a nightclub in a popular beachfront area of Tel Aviv late Friday night, killing four people and wounding at least 65 others, according to Israeli police and emergency services.

At least three of the wounded were considered severely injured and at least three others were critically hurt, Israeli emergency services spokesman Yoni Yagodozsky said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was consulting early Saturday with his defense minister and security services, but Israel "remains committed" to the cease-fire reached with Palestinian Authority officials in Egypt on February 8, said Ra'annan Gissin, a spokesman for Sharon.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called an emergency meeting of his security officials in Ramallah, Palestinian sources said. He also released a statement pledging that Palestinian authorities would do everything they can to track down those responsible for the attack.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the Palestinian Authority condemned the bombing in the "strongest possible terms," and he urged "all sides to exercise restraint."

"If this is a suicide bombing, then whoever is behind it is trying to attempt to sabotage efforts to revive the peace process," Erakat said.

Gissin said Friday's blast showed that the Palestinian Authority needs to do more to restrain militants and fight terrorism, rather than trying to negotiate.

"With terrorists, you can't reach compromise. You can't make agreements. The Palestinian Authority effort to try and reach an understanding or an agreement with a terrorist organization failed. Tonight, it failed. It failed before," Gissin said.

"There would be no need for condemnation had the Palestinian Authority taken real steps to dismantle the terrorist organizations, to arrest the terrorists, to collect all the illegal weapons, to do what they were required to do according to the obligations in the road map to peace."

Responding to the criticism, Erakat noted that Israeli forces still have security responsibility in many West Bank cities. He said as the new Palestinian government, sworn-in Thursday, assumes more security responsibility, it would have "zero tolerance" for militants and would make a "100 percent effort" to combat violence.

He also said Palestinian security officials were in touch with their Israeli counterparts to coordinate efforts following the bombing.

Some militant groups have said they don't consider themselves bound by the cease-fire.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group associated with the Fatah movement, and Islamic Jihad denied responsibility for the attack.

Victims were waiting in line

The blast occurred near The Stage nightclub at 11:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m. ET), just as nightclubs were set to open, and was the first suicide bombing in Israel in almost four months.

The club owner, Tzahi Cohen, told CNN about seven to 10 people and four security guards were outside the club when the bomber set off the explosives. Security guards normally check patrons coming into the club, but because the club was not yet open, the people in line would not have been checked, Cohen said.

People inside an adjacent store were also wounded, he said.

In Washington, a senior State Department official described the attack as "a step back, a blow to our efforts," adding that "it will be important to see what steps are taken."

Officials at the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem have contacted senior Palestinian officials to urge them to condemn the bombing, take action against those responsible, and work with U.S. and Israeli officials to combat terrorism, the senior official said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to London on Monday for a conference on Palestinian issues, and "this incident will certainly bring to light an issue that will already be in the forefront," the senior official said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan released a statement Friday night condemning the Tel Aviv attack "in the strongest possible terms."

"This terrorist act should not be allowed to undermine the recent positive steps taken by both sides," he said.

CNN's Elise Labott, Guy Raz and John Vause contributed to this report.

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