Suicide bomber hits Israeli restaurant

Israeli police explosives experts inspect the site of a suicide-bomb attack near a fast food restaurant in Israel Monday. A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up near the restaurant in a bustling commercial area. The Associated Press

Israeli police explosives experts inspect the site of a suicide-bomb attack near a fast food restaurant in Israel Monday. A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up near the restaurant in a bustling commercial area. The Associated Press

TEL AVIV, Israel – A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up outside a fast-food restaurant in a bustling commercial area of Tel Aviv during the Passover holiday Monday, killing seven other people and wounding at least 49, police said.

A security guard posted outside the restaurant, the target of a suicide bombing in January, prevented Monday’s bomber from entering the building, police said.

It was the first suicide attack in Israel since the Hamas militant group took over the Palestinian government 21/2 weeks ago. Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in attacks, has largely observed a cease-fire since February 2005.

The Islamic Jihad militant group, which is believed to be funded in part by Iran and refuses to observe a cease-fire, claimed responsibility in a telephone call to The Associated Press. The attack came a day after the group pledged to carry out more attacks.

Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for all six of the previous suicide attacks inside Israel since the cease-fire was declared.

Hamas leaders called the bombing a legitimate response to Israeli “aggression” – a sharp departure from the previous Palestinian leadership’s immediate condemnations of such attacks.

“We think that this operation … is a direct result of the policy of the occupation and the brutal aggression and siege committed against our people,” said Khaled Abu Helal, spokesman for the Hamas-led Interior Ministry.

Earlier, Moussa abu Marzouk, a Hamas leader abroad, told Al-Jazeera television that “the Israeli side must feel what the Palestinian feels, and the Palestinian defends himself as much as he can.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of the rival Fatah Party, condemned the bombing, calling it a “terrorist attack.”