TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) – A Palestinian suicide bomber struck a packed fast-food restaurant during Passover yesterday, killing nine people and wounding dozens in the deadliest bombing in more than a year.

Sarah Royce
Israeli police explosives experts inspect the site of a suicide bomb attack near a fast food restaurant in Tel Aviv yesterday. (AP PHOTO)

In a sharp departure from the previous Palestinian government’s condemnations of bombings, the Hamas-led administration defended the attack as a legitimate response to Israeli “aggression.”

The bloodshed and the hard-line stance could set the stage for harsh Israeli reprisals and endanger Hamas’ efforts to secure desperately needed international aid and acceptance.

Israel said it held Hamas responsible for the attack in Tel Aviv even though a separate group, Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility.

“Hamas’ constant preaching for the destruction of Israel serves as a catalyst for these attacks,” said David Baker, an Israeli government spokesman.

Israel’s security chiefs met Monday and were expected to recommend stepped-up operations against Islamic Jihad, security officials said. Israeli officials were to decide on a response today.

In an initial response, Israeli aircraft attacked an empty metal workshop in Gaza City early today, causing no injuries. The army said the workshop was used by the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to manufacture homemade rockets that militants launch at Israel.

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