- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 5, 2003

HAIFA, Israel — A Palestinian woman wrapped in explosives blew herself up yesterday inside a seaside restaurant popular with both Arabs and Jews, killing 19 bystanders, including four children.

The bombing, which wounded at least 55, prompted new calls for Israel to act on threats to expel Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The lunchtime attack ended nearly a month of relative calm. One of the deadliest in three years of renewed violence, the bombing came on the Jewish Sabbath and a day before the start of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

President Bush, who has opposed Mr. Arafat’s expulsion, condemned “the despicable attack” and said Palestinian authorities must take responsibility for stopping terrorism.

Arafat supporters appealed for international intervention to guarantee his safety.

The blast inside the Maxim restaurant went off shortly after 2 p.m., shattering windows and leaving the white walls cracked and charred. Most of the ceiling collapsed, with lights and wires dangling.

Broken plates, glass, chairs and human remains covered the floor of the one-story building. Outside, the body of the restaurant’s security guard lay broken and bloody on the steps.

Gideon Zilberstein, 63, an accountant, was eating lunch with his wife, son and daughter-in-law when the bomber attacked. “Suddenly we heard a huge boom all around us. People were dead or dying next to our table,” he said.

Police said the bomber and 19 bystanders were killed, including four Arabs. The four dead children included a 1-year-old and two others ages 5 and 6, emergency officials said.

The wounded included several members of the local pro soccer team, Maccabi Haifa, who meet at the restaurant every Saturday.

The group Islamic Jihad said it organized the bombing. It identified the bomber as Hanadi Jaradat, 27, a law school graduate from the West Bank town of Jenin. Her brother and a cousin, an Islamic Jihad member, were killed in an Israeli military raid in June, the group said.

The explosion brought to 103 the number of Palestinian suicide bombings in the past three years of fighting. At least 432 persons have been killed in the attacks.

Haifa, a Mediterranean port city of about 270,000 with a reputation for tolerance, has been the target of repeated attacks by militant groups. One reason, perhaps, is that attackers are better able to blend in with the Arab community of 47,000.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called his advisers for an emergency meeting last night.

Early today, Israeli helicopters fired two missiles at a small house near the beach in Gaza City, and helicopters also fired missiles into a Gaza refugee camp, witnesses said.

The house belonged to the Kamita family, one of Gaza’s largest, but it was empty at the time of the Israeli attack. Ambulances arrived amid large crowds, but there were no reports of casualties.

Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said earlier that Israel faces tough decisions and, if necessary, would act on them regardless of world opinion. “The world will have to accept our decisions,” Mr. Olmert said.

Israel’s security Cabinet voted Sept. 11 to “remove” Mr. Arafat at some unspecified point in the future.

Hours after yesterday’s blast in Haifa, two Israeli planes briefly circled Mr. Arafat’s offices in Ramallah, where he has been confined for two years, and Israeli army jeeps drove past.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said the next two days would be crucial for the survival of a U.S.-backed peace plan, suggesting Israel might not take any drastic action.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell called Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom to discuss the situation. Earlier, Mr. Shalom had reassured Mr. Powell that Israel would consult with Washington before acting against the Palestinian leader.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled said Israel expected Mr. Arafat to take swift action against militants. The Palestinian leader “will have to come up with something very, very different or serious this time to get off the hook,” Mr. Peled said, adding that “the next 24 to 48 hours are crucial for the future of the … peace process.”

Mr. Arafat condemned the attack and said it endangered Palestinian interests. Incoming Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia called the Haifa mayor to express condolences.

The United States is looking to the new Palestinian prime minster to crack down on militants. The attack came on the eve of the expected announcement of a new Cabinet by Mr. Qureia, an architect of the 1993 Oslo peace agreements.

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