Suicide bomber kills 4 next to U.S. embassy

Special to World
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

TEL AVIV A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself and killed three other people next to the U.S. embassy in Israel.

Authorities said the suicide bomber attacked a crowded nightclub next to the embassy in Tel Aviv on early Wednesday. They said a security guard prevented the entry of the Palestinian in the club and at that point he detonated the bomb he was wearing.

Three people, in addition to the bomber, were killed and about 60 were injured, including U.S. and French nationals, authorities said. Six people, including the security guard, were said to have been seriously injured. Authorities said the bomb did not include shrapnel, which has accounted for most of the injuries in suicide strikes.

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U.S. security personnel have been stationed around the embassy near the nightclub. They were not said to have been among the victims.

Officials said the embassy, which was closed at 1 a.m. on Wednesday, was not a target. They said the popular club, called Mike's Place, had been a previous target of Palestinian insurgents. About 80 people were in the club when the bomber struck.

"If the terrorist would have entered the place, there would have been 30 dead and not three," nightclub owner Assaf Ganzman said.

The attack was the 89th suicide bombing since the start of the Israeli-Palestinian war in September 2000. The Fatah movement headed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat claimed responsibility in a joint operation with the Islamic opposition Hamas. A joint communique identified the suicide bomber as a resident of the West Bank city of Tulkarm.

"There are elements within Fatah who are interested in the continuation of attacks," Israeli minister Danny Naveh said. "Arafat has not internalized that those in Europe and the United States want him to leave the game."

Earlier, Israeli military units assassinated commanders of Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The Israeli strikes were reported in Bethlehem and Khan Yunis.

Officials said Israel's military has been ordered to maintain a low profile amid the Tel Aviv attack. They said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon does not want a massive military operation against Palestinian insurgency strongholds in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in wake of the new Palestinian government headed by Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. The United States will relay its so-called roadmap for a Palestinian state later on Wednesday.

Sharon, officials said, has been urged by his advisers to provide Abbas with a grace period to demonstrate his commitment to stop Palestinian attacks. A report prepared by a government interagency team and submitted to Sharon warned that Abbas would not acquire the ability to prevent Palestinian insurgency attacks over the short term.

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