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Tel Aviv Suicide Bombing Heightens Tensions With Israel

BY Admin  April 17, 2006 at 1:15 AM EDT

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the attack. Both the United States and Israel have labeled the militants a terrorist organization for its record of attacking military and civilian targets.

Islamic Jihad released a video of the purported bomber, identified as 21-year-old Sami Hammad from the West Bank, and warned of future attacks. Hammad claimed the strike was in response to the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

“There are many other bombers on the way,” he said.

The bombing comes at a sensitive time in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, occurring just hours before a special session of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. It is also the first attack since the leadership of the Palestinian Authority transferred from Fatah to Hamas, a group that the U.S. and Israel have labeled terrorists and has come under international pressure for refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised that Israel would respond to the attack.

“We will know how to respond in the way and manner required, and we will continue to act with all means at our disposal to thwart further such incidents,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

He added the attacks did not come as a surprise.

“It’s not something that we didn’t fear would happen, we know the terrorist organizations groups continue at every moment to look for opportunities to carry out attacks inside Israel,” he said. “The security forces are deployed in every corner, every place, but we also know that there is no way we can always prevent such attacks, under all circumstances, in every case.”

In Washington, White House Spokesman Scott McClelland called the attack a “despicable act of terror for which there is no excuse or justification.”

The bombing also added pressure to the growing split between Fatah and the new Hamas leadership. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a member of the Fatah party, denounced the attacks while prominent members of the more-radical Hamas party defended the Islamic Jihad group.

“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 Palestinian Interior Ministry.

The incident took place at the same fast-food restaurant attacked on January 19 in another suicide bombing, according to the police spokesman.