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Suicide Bombing in Tel Aviv Kills At Least Four; Shatters Truce


A suicide bombing in Tel Aviv has killed at least four people and injured dozens more, shattering weeks of calm. Palestinian authorities say they will track down and punish those responsible.

Shortly before midnight a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of young Israelis waiting to get into a beachfront nightclub in Tel Aviv.

Israeli police say the bomber was spotted and prevented from entering the club. They say if he had gotten inside the carnage would have been even worse.

It is unclear who was behind the attack with major Palestinian militant groups saying they had nothing to do with it.

A statement released by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah vowed to track down and punish those responsible, saying this was an attempt to sabotage the peace process.

The bombing shatters weeks of calm after Mr. Abbas declared a truce during a summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Egypt earlier this month.

Q Text with VOA correspondent Sonja Pace in Jerusalem:

Q. What can you tell us about the attack in Tel Aviv?

A. Shortly before midnight local time Friday a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of young Israelis waiting to get into a nightclub in Tel Aviv. It was along the beachfront which is a very popular area with restaurants and nightclubs. Israeli police say the bomber was spotted as he was trying to get in and was stopped. He blew himself up at that point. Had he gotten inside they say the carnage would have been even worse. At this point we don't know who was behind the attack. There were some initial claims of responsibility by organizations like Islamic Jihad but later also denials by Islamic Jihad and other militant groups. They say they had nothing to do with the bombing.

Q. What's been the response from the Palestinian Authority and from the Israelis?

A. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called a meeting of his security chiefs and there was a very quick condemnation of the attack. In past suicide bombings we've seen condemnations from the Palestinian Authority when (former President) Yasser Arafat was still alive. I think the difference this time is that there's not only been a condemnation, there's also been a vow that the Palestinian Authority's were going to track down and punish those responsible. That's not the kind of talk we used to hear in the past.

As far as the Israelis are concerned, an Israeli government spokesman said very quickly that obviously Mr. Abbas needs to do more than just talk with the militants about a truce. He needs to crack down and dismantle what the Israelis call these terrorist organizations.

What has happened is that Mahmoud Abbas has talked with militant groups to get them to agree to at least an informal cease fire. And they have said they would maintain a period of calm, which they have done. This obviously shatters that calm. And what it does is it puts the pressure on Mr. Abbas to find those responsible and to do something about it. At this point I don't think we can talk about, you know, this is shattering this very fragile peace process that we've got going, these peace efforts we've got going. But it certainly does put pressure on Mr. Abbas to track down these militants, whoever was responsible and do something about it.

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