NETANYA, Israel (AP) – A Palestinian suicide bomber wounded 30 people outside a packed cafe in northern Israel yesterday, an attack the Islamic Jihad called “Palestine’s gift to the heroic people of Iraq.” The blast raised Israeli fears of more bombings as the war in Iraq intensifies.
The militant group said a vanguard of Palestinians has arrived in Baghdad ready to kill American and British soldiers in suicide missions. The claim came a day after a noncommissioned Iraqi army officer driving a taxi detonated explosives at a U.S. checkpoint in Iraq, killing himself and four American soldiers.
The blast in the coastal town of Netanya was the first suicide bombing in Israel in nearly a month and involved five pounds of explosives studded with nails. It occurred during lunchtime outside the popular Cafe London on the downtown pedestrian mall.
Ten of the wounded were Israeli soldiers, including one who stopped the attacker as he tried to enter the cafe, police and the army said. Panicked customers ran, overturning chairs and tables and shouting, “Terrorist! Terrorist!”
Islamic Jihad identified the bomber as Rami Ghanem, 20, from a West Bank village just across the porous line with Israel. The bombing affirmed “the unity of battle from Palestine to Baghdad in confronting the American-Zionist invasion which targets the entire Arab and Islamic nation,” the group said in a statement.
The militants’ support for Iraq appeared be a departure from pledges not to get involved in other conflicts. In the past 30 months of fighting with Israel, Islamic Jihad and its sister group Hamas have sent dozens of young men and a few women into Israeli cities, where they’ve killed hundreds with bombs and bullets.
Hamas also appeared to link the battle against Israel with the fighting in Iraq. Masked Hamas activists at a pro-Iraq march in the West Bank city of Nablus yesterday posed before a large placard showing bloodied maps of Palestine and Iraq with a black-clad man strapped with explosives standing between them.