LEAST 20 DEAD IN HAIFA TERROR ATTACK
Jerusalem----October 4..... A Palestinian suicide bomber blew herself up in a crowded beach restaurant just south of the Israeli port city of Haifa. At least twenty people were murdered in the barbaric blast, including five children. Police said about two dozen people were wounded .
The terror attack came on a sunny, Saturday afternoon - the Sabbath before the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement. It was the first suicide bombing in a month and the first since a threat by Israel to expel Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The Maxim Restaurant is a popular dining spot used by motorists who are heading south from Haifa and the north.
Police said a terrorist with a gun was also involved in Saturday's attack near Haifa's beach promenade. On Saturdays, the promenade is packed with people.
Police said the blast was set off by a suicide bomber, who had explosives strapped to his body.
Islamic Jihad in Jenin has claimed responsibility for the lethal attack.
The terror attack came despite a blanket closure Israel had imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip ahead of Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown Sunday and ends at sundown Monday. Such closures are generally imposed during Jewish holidays because of increased concerns about attacks by Palestinian militants in such periods.
Since fighting broke out three years ago, more than 400 Israelis have been killed in 103 Palestinian terror suicide bombings. Palestinian terrorism is responsible for murdering hundreds of innocent Israeli civilians.
The Haifa blast was the first since twin attacks on Sept. 9 that killed 15 people near an army base outside Tel Aviv and at a Jerusalem coffee shop. After that attack, the Israeli Cabinet approved the "removal" of Arafat, but did not say when it would take action. It is widely believed that a major attack with many casualties could trigger Israeli measures against Arafat.
The Palestinian Authority had no immediate comment.Palestinian terrorism is responsible for murdering hundreds of Israelis.
David Baker, a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said Israel demands that the Palestinian Authority take immediate steps against terror groups.
"The bombing in Haifa is another indication that the Palestinian Authority continues to refuse to take even minimal steps against the terrorist infrastructure," he said.
"There were not a lot of wounded, just a lot of people strewn on the ground. There was nothing to do, no way to help them," said a motorist who went to the scene, identified only as Navon. He said several children were among the dead.
The blast blew out windows. Walls inside were riddled with holes, wires dangled from the ceiling, and clusters of pipes were exposed. Chunks were blown off pillars throughout the restaurant.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called his advisers for an emergency meeting, and Israel Radio quoted his army chief, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, as saying there would be a "harsh" response to the bombing after nightfall Saturday. Palestinian terrorism is funded by Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia.
On Sept. 11, the Israeli Cabinet decided to "remove" Arafat, implying expulsion or assassination. Sharon has hinted that Israel might act against the Palestinian leader in response to an attack with many casualties.