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Suicide bomber in Israel's Tel Aviv kills 6

By Staff
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TEL AVIV, Apr 17 (Reuters) A Palestinian suicide bomber killed six people at a sandwich stand in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv today and wounded dozens more, medics said.

The bombing occurred near Tel Aviv's old central bus station in the middle of the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover. The ZAKA emergency service put the number of dead at six. Police said more than 50 were wounded.

Both the Islamic Jihad militant group and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is linked to the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, claimed responsibility.

A spokesman for the Islamic militant group Hamas, which took control of the Palestinian government on March 29 after sweeping general elections in January, called the bombing an act of ''self-defence''. Abbas, a moderate, condemned it.

'It was a huge explosion. It was an unbelievable sight,'' Yossi Bar, a taxi driver, told Israel Radio.

A spokesman for acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel held the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority responsible.

''This Palestinian Authority, which has clearly defined itself as a terrorist entity, has tried to instigate terrorist support more than the previous one did, and we will act accordingly,'' spokesman Raanan Gissin said.

The bomber struck as Olmert was trying to form a coalition government after his centrist Kadima party won most seats in general elections on March 28. In the lead-up to the elections, Olmert had promised to use an ''iron fist'' against militants.

In a statement, Abbas urged the ''Quartet'' of West Asia peace mediators -- the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union -- to intervene to prevent a spiral into violence.

''This operation does not go in line with the Palestinian national consensus and the ... interests of the Palestinian people,'' Abbas said.

Live television pictures showed bystanders with blood on their shirts immediately after the attack. Ambulances and police vehicles rushed to the scene.

Police said the attacker was a male suicide bomber.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called the attack ''a natural result of the continued Israeli crimes against our people''.

''The Israeli occupation bears responsibility for the continuation of its aggression. Our people are in a state of self-defence and they have every right to use all means to defend themselves,'' he added.

A senior al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade leader in the occupied West Bank said the attack was to avenge Israeli raids in Gaza, referring to Israeli air strikes and artillery barrages against positions from where militants fire rockets into Israel.

The last suicide bombing in Israel was on January 19 when only the bomber died.

Hamas itself has carried out nearly 60 suicide bombings against Israelis since a Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000 but has largely abided by a year-old ceasefire.

REUTERS SI PC1804

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