A suicide bomb attack at a pizza parlour in the heart of Jerusalem
has killed at least 15 people - including a number of children - and
injured more than 90.
We saw bodies thrown all over the floor and people ran
into my store dripping with blood
Jerusalem shop-owner Nava Perry
It was the most deadly bomb attack since a Palestinian suicide
bomber killed 20 Israelis in Tel Aviv on 1 June - and the worst by
far in Jerusalem during the ongoing 10-month Palestinian uprising.
BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says the attack will strengthen
the hand of Mr Sharon against doves in his cabinet who have been
pushing for more political dialogue with Palestinian leaders.
A senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon blamed
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for the bombing.
Dore Gold said Mr Arafat bore responsibility for the attack because
he had not put an end to incitement to violence against Israelis.
"Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority are directly
responsible for the deaths," he told the BBC.
Mr Arafat condemned the attack and called for a joint ceasefire.
Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Mr Sharon, refused to reveal how the
government planned to react to the attack, but said that "Israel is
definitely going to respond."
The sentiments were echoed by Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert.
"We are in a war... We will act together with the government to
reach every one of those who is responsible for terror, to hit them
and kill them," he said.
In a strongly worded statement, US President George W Bush called on
Mr Arafat to "act now to arrest and bring to justice those
responsible, and take immediate, sustained action to prevent future
Hamas, the hard-line Palestinian militant group, said one of its
members had been the bomber.
Islamic Jihad, which had also claimed responsibility, later said it
had mistakenly thought that one of its activists was behind the
"Our fighter Hussein Abu Amsha was en route to carry out a martyrdom
operation and when the explosion happened, our brothers thought it
was him," Islamic Jihad General Secretary Ramadan Shallah said in
Palestinian legislative council member Hanan Ashrawi said the pizza
parlour attack was part of a cycle of violence.
Palestinian information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo went farther:
"Sharon provoked it. Sharon waited for it. Sharon wanted it," he
The nail-packed bomb exploded in what Mayor Olmert called one of the
busiest intersections in Jewish west Jerusalem at the busiest part
of the day.
Shattered glass covered the ground around the Sbarro restaurant in
the busy Jaffa Street shopping district.
Dozens of ambulances, sirens blaring, rushed to the scene. Many of
the casualties were children.
A doctor at nearby Shaare Zedek hospital said he had three
critically injured patients between the ages of four months and a
year and a half.
Palestinian suicide bombers have killed dozens of Israelis since the
uprising began after peace talks became deadlocked.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad have claimed responsibility for most of the
Jerusalem shop-owner Nava Perry saw the aftermath of the blast: "We
saw bodies thrown all over the floor and people ran into my store
dripping with blood.
"I saw bodies inside the restaurant and the body of a little girl on
the street outside full of blood.
"Bodies were all over inside and outside. Sbarro is completely blown
The attack came amid high tensions between the Palestinians and
Israelis, with Palestinian militants vowing revenge for Israel's
policy of killing activists they consider a threat to Israeli
"I believe this (bombing) was the retaliation of the Palestinian
people for the terrorist Zionists attacks," said Abdel Aziz Rantisi,
a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip.
"They must understand that the blood of our people is not cheap."
A Palestinian official has warned that growing support among
Palestinians for radical Islamist groups is making it harder for the
Palestinian Authority to govern the West Bank and Gaza Strip.