Four dead and 45 hurt in Tel Aviv suicide bombing

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The Independent Online

A suicide bomber set off a huge explosion outside a seafront bar in Israel's largest city this morning, leaving at least four people dead and up to 45 injured.

The blast came hours after the Palestinian parliament approved a new cabinet and followed a pledge by its Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, to rein in militants blamed for previous attacks on Israel.

Today's explosion blew the front off Mike's Place, a nightspot at the rear of the US embassy in Tel Aviv.

A police commander, Yossi Sedbon, said the bomber was carrying a medium-size bomb. He added: "It was an attack by a suicide bomber who blew himself up at the entrance of a pub. The attacker did not succeed on getting into the place. It would have been much worse if he had managed to get inside."

Paramedics said up to 45 people were hurt and four people were killed, including the bomber. One of the wounded was said to be in a critical condition. A Tel Aviv hospital official, Gabi Barabash, said the victims were young and added that unlike other attacks, most of the injuries were burns. Previously, suicide bombers have often carried explosives laced with nails and screws to maximise the damage.

The owner of the bar, Gal Ganzman, his shirt covered with blood, said he was standing behind the bar when he heard the explosion. "I'm alive, I'm fine," he said. "One of the waitresses lost an arm but she's still alive. The boom was just outside the entrance. The security guard must have stopped him."

Another witness said: "We saw several young men, burned up, coming out of the pub. We were in a nearby nightclub, waiting for a friend at the entrance. And then 10 metres from here, we saw fire coming out of the bar, people all burned up running out."

Although a warning was given of a possible terror attack in a nearby town, none was received in Tel Aviv.

The blast occurred just hours after the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah, under international pressure, approved a new cabinet to revive the Middle East peace process.

Before the vote, Mr Abbas spoke out against terrorism and indicated that his government would crack down on militant groups. However, Islamic Jihad and Hamas pledged to continue its attacks on Israel.

On 1 June 2001, a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of the Dolphinarium disco near to today's blast. It killed 21 people, most of them Russian immigrant teenagers, in one of the bloodiest attacks in 31 months of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

On Thursday last week – only 24 hours after Mr Abbas resolved his differences with Yasser Arafat – a Palestinian suicide bomber killed one man and wounded at least 13 other people when he detonated a bomb at the entrance to a train station in Kfar Saba, a satellite town of Tel Aviv. Again a security guard stopped the bomber and was killed when the attacker set off his explosives.

An armed faction of Mr Arafat's Fatah movement and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the explosion.

Afterwards David Baker, an official in the Israeli Prime Minister's office, said the attack was evidence that "Palestinian terrorism has not been reined in". He said the "new Palestinian government must seize this opportunity to stop these terror attacks, and it must be done now".