Hamas attack kills 17 in Tel Aviv

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 10 May 2002 23:42:45 +0100

WASHINGTON, May 8: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cut short a trip
to the United States and flew back home on Wednesday after a suicide
bombing south of Tel Aviv killed 17 people (including the bomber) and
injured about 60 in a stunning reminder of the Middle East conflict his
trip was intended to defuse. 

Sharon said the bombing proved the "true intentions" of the leaders of
the Palestinian Authority, whom he accuses of directing attacks, and
said Israel's military operation campaign to "uproot the terror
infrastructure" would go on. 

The Israeli leader was meeting US President George W. Bush at the White
House on Tuesday evening when a bomb tore through a billiard hall in
Risholm Letzion, south of Tel Aviv, around 2000 GMT (2am PST on
Wednesday). 

US officials said Bush expressed his "disgust" with the attack, adding:
"I'm never going to tell my friend the prime minister what to do on how
to handle his business. That's his choice to make." 

After receiving news of the attack, Sharon cancelled planned meetings
with congressional and US Jewish leaders and departed for Israel from
New York early on Wednesday. 

It was the second time a US visit by Sharon has been disrupted by a
suicide bombing. In December the Israeli premier had to cut short his
visit after a suicide bombing in occupied Al Quds. 

Its effect was to overshadow any moves Bush and Sharon may have made
toward a political resolution of the crisis, through promoting an
international conference this summer or reforms in the Palestinian
Authority, and refocus the Middle East, at least for now, squarely back
on violence. 

The armed wing of the Hamas immediately claimed responsibility for the
attack, saying it came in reprisal for the Israeli army's deadly
nine-day offensive in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin. However, the
leadership of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority condemned the
bombing, which it said helped raise Israel's international standing
while making it seem that "Palestinians do not want peace". 

DEVASTATION: Amid scenes of mayhem and devastation on the southern
outskirts of Tel Aviv, witnesses said the impact of the blast caused the
third floor ceiling of the building to collapse, and that the entire
club appeared to be destroyed. 

A police official said the suicide bomber appeared to have carried the
explosives into the Spiel club, in the industrial suburbs of Tel Aviv,
in a large suitcase. "He went into the snooker club and blew himself
up," he told Israeli public television. "More than 50 people were
wounded, some of them seriously." 

"There was a massive blast that really hit you in the face," said one
witness. "There were just people screaming and screaming from inside the
building, covered in blood. Others were just running around, injured." 

Officials said several of the injured were taken to hospital in critical
condition. The Israeli daily Haaretz said on its website that 11 of the
injured were in serious condition. 

Police said they had not yet managed to get all of the bodies and
possible survivors out of the building. 

The suicide attack was the first to strike Israel since a young woman
suicide bomber killed six other people on April 12 in occupied Al Quds
and the deadliest since the Israeli army launched "Operation Defensive
Wall" on March 29. 

Sharon's popularity had risen sharply in the course of his five-week
sweep through the West Bank. 

In a phone call to a journalist in occupied Al Quds, a man who said he
represented the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the
Hamas movement, claimed responsibility for the attack.- 

Source:  Reuters/ AFP

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