Suicide Bomber Kills 9 in Israel, Wounds Dozens

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A Palestinian suicide bomber strikes at a fast-food restaurant in Tel Aviv, Israel. The attack kills the bomber and nine others, wounding dozens. Israel is marking the Passover holiday. It is the first suicide attack since Hamas took control of the Palestinian government.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

And I'm Renee Montagne. A powerful explosion set off by a Palestinian suicide bomber in Tel Aviv in a...I keep doing that.

And I'm Renee Montagne. A powerful explosion set off by a Palestinian suicide bomber in a Tel Aviv restaurant killed at least nine people today, and wounded dozens more. The attack coming during the Passover holiday is the first since the Hamas militant group assumed control of the Palestinian government late last month. NPR's Eric Westervelt is at the scene of the bombing in Tel Aviv. And Eric, where did this bombing take place, exactly?

ERIC WESTERVELT: Well, the bomber struck in a pedestrian mall with shops and restaurants, Renee, that's near the central bus station in Tel Aviv. Police and medical personnel are still cleaning up the glass and debris and body parts. They're still taking away some of the injured. They confirm that seven were killed, and more than 60 injured. It was a powerful explosion, a powerful bomb by one Palestinian suicide bomber. The bomber struck the same sandwich shop, Renee, that was attacked in January. In that attack, only the suicide bomber was killed. Obviously, today's attack far more serious. As you said, it comes during the Passover holiday, when many Israelis are off work, and the market today was crowded with midday shoppers and people having lunch.

MONTAGNE: Has there been any claim of responsibility?

WESTERVELT: Well, two separate militant groups have claimed responsibility. Islamic Jihad said in a statement they did it, and a faction Al Oxa Martyr's Brigade also claimed responsibility. Islamic Jihad carried out five suicide bombings inside Israel last year, and this is the second suicide bombing in three weeks. Last month, a Palestinian dressed as a religious Jew hitched a ride near a West Bank settlement, blew himself up, killing four Israelis. But as of this time, two conflicting claims of responsibility.

MONTAGNE: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the bombing already, but not so Hamas.

WESTERVELT: That's right. The new Hamas of the Palestinian Authority has been in power just over two weeks. This is the first big attack inside Israel, you know, since they took office. So far, top Hamas officials have said very little publicly, but a spokesman for Hamas' interior minister told Palestinian media just recently that the attack is, quote, "Self defense, and a natural result of the difficult situation Palestinians are in," end quote. This Hamas spokesman's recently made similar statements, Renee, about the daily homemade (unintelligible) fire from Gaza into Israel. Israel's responded forcefully and strongly to that rocket fire with daily artillery barrages into Northern Gaza. We'll just have to wait and see how the Israeli government responds to this bombing.

MONTAGNE: Although, interestingly, of the two groups that have claimed, at least, responsibility, one of them is connected--that is, the Al Oxa Martyr's Brigade--connected to Fatah, which is Abbas', Mahmoud Abbas' group.

WESTERVELT: That's right. The Al Oxa Martyr's Brigades are a coalition of many different brigades, different affiliations. They are all under the umbrella of Fatah, and affiliated--in some respects--with Mahmoud Abbas. He, today, came out strongly condemning it, but these factions, he doesn't really have control over. And one of them has claimed responsibility, and has vowed to carry out even more attacks inside Israel.

MOTAGNE: Eric, thanks very much. NPR's Eric Westervelt, at the scene of today's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.

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