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Suicide bomber kills 3 in Tel Aviv

Emergency personnel tend to some of the wounded after the suicide bombing.
Emergency personnel tend to some of the wounded after the suicide bombing.

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CNN's Jerrold Kessel reports the suicide bomber killed at least three people outside a Tel Aviv cafe.
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Carnage at the bombing scene.
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TEL AVIV, Israel (CNN) -- A security guard at a beachfront cafe blocked a suicide bomber from entering the establishment early Wednesday, but the bomber blew himself up at the cafe's door, the city's police chief said.

The bomber killed three people, as well as himself, authorities said. The fatalities included a French woman, possibly a waitress at the cafe, police said.

As many as 50 people were wounded -- 22 remained hospitalized, with six in serious condition, including the security guard, Israeli medial officials said.

There were reports that one of the wounded was an American, police said.

The cafe, Mike's Place, is located in an area that includes several bars, cafes, and nightclubs along the Mediterranean coastline.

"Suddenly there was an orange flash and a loud bang, and I ducked and then it was covered in smoke, and everyone was screaming, and then we ran out," said Barry Gilbert, a musician performing at the cafe whose shirt and pants were bloodstained. "It was just very, very, very messy as we were trying to get out."

Gilbert said about 100 people were inside at the time of the explosion.

According to Israeli radio, Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have both claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred beside the U.S. Embassy compound.

In the aftermath of the attack, ambulances crowded the pedestrian mall. Video of the scene showed twisted metal supports and hanging wires, all that was left of the cafe's entrance.

The restaurant owner said one of his waitresses lost her arm in the explosion. (More from scene)

The blast occurred just hours after Abu Mazen was confirmed as the first Palestinian prime minister.

"We reject terrorism by any party and in all its forms," Abu Mazen said in his acceptance speech. (Full story)

The attack also came as the United States was expected to deliver -- within the next 24 to 48 hours -- the long-awaited "road map" for Middle East peace.

That document calls on the Palestinians and Israelis to take immediate steps to improve security and cooperation, and ultimately envisions a provisional Palestinian state by early 2004 and agreement on an independent permanent Palestinian state by the end of 2005.

Israeli police spokesman Gil Kleiman said the Tel Aviv bomber most likely had explosives strapped to his body.

"It's not so much the size of the explosion, it's the fragment metal pieces: nails that are added to the explosion cause the damage," he said on CNN. "The object is not to blow up the building, it's to kill people."

Condemnation, demands

An Israeli government official said this "bloody type of attack must stop."

The facade of Mike's Place, a Tel Aviv bar, was shattered by the blast.
The facade of Mike's Place, a Tel Aviv bar, was shattered by the blast.

"Progress can only be made when the new Palestinian government -- once and for all -- takes firm and determined measures to stop this terrorism that is sprouting in their back yards," the official said. "Israel is demanding that the new Palestinian government take action immediately to stop these acts of terror like we saw in Tel Aviv."

Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the attack only shows how much the road map for peace is needed.

"We condemn this attack. We really hope this will not derail the introduction of the road map now, which is essential now," he said. "On the contrary, it shows how much we need this road map and how much we need the implementation of the road map to break the vicious cycle of violence and counter violence."

Asked what this means for the new Palestinian government, Erakat said, "The extent of the real challenge is to Abu Mazen."

In Washington, a senior administration official told CNN there was "a good chance" the strike was meant as a signal to Abu Mazen after his call for an end to terror attacks and for a negotiated settlement with Israel.

"There's a good chance it was a signal to him," the official said. "It is a reminder of how difficult the challenge is going to be."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told CNN, "The White House condemns this homicide bombing in the strongest terms. This attack is obviously designed to harm the peace process. We will press forward with our efforts to get the parties back on the path to peace." (Full story)

Secretary of State Colin Powell is to travel to Israel and Gaza next week to discuss the road map with Abu Mazen and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, sources say.

Powell will also be carrying an invitation for the new Palestinian prime minister to visit the Bush White House -- an invitation never extended to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, because President Bush did not believe the longtime Palestinian leader was doing enough to crack down on terror groups in the Palestinian territories.

Conflict in Gaza

On Tuesday, an Israeli Apache attack helicopter fired missiles at a car in Khan Yunis, in Gaza, Palestinian security sources said, killing one person inside and injuring four others.

An Israeli army representative told CNN the report is being investigated.

Earlier, Israeli troops trying to arrest wanted Palestinians in the West Bank city of El Khader near Bethlehem became involved in a firefight after being fired on from a house, Israeli military sources said.

However, Palestinian security sources said two members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades were killed when Israeli soldiers blew up a house the men were in.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is a militant offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.

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