The lunch-hour attack took place in a crowded pizzeria located in the heart of the city’s central shopping district.
The military wing of the Islamic Jihad originally said it was responsible for the attack, but then withdrew that claim. The militant group Hamas later claimed responsibility.
It was the deadliest incident since a suicide bomber killed 21 people outside a Tel Aviv disco on June 1 and both sides accepted a U.S.-brokered cease-fire, which has failed to end the fighting.
An American woman was among the dead. Authorities identify her as Judith Greenbaum.
The United States has condemned the attack. And Secretary of State Colin Powell has been in touch with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. An aide says Arafat urged the U.S. to pressure Israel to stop inciting the Palestinians.
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat also condemned the bombing and called on Israel to declare a joint cease-fire.
Israel responded by accusing Arafat of doing nothing to end the violence.
“Yasser Arafat utterly failed to fulfill the terms of this
cease-fire and as a result we have 18 Israelis dead,” Israeli spokesman Dore Gold said. “It’s the role of the government of Israel to defend the people of Israel and I’m sure that’s precisely what Israel will do now.”
A senior U.S. State Department official told Reuters the United States expects the Palestinian Authority to find those responsible and take “resolute action” to prevent further bombings.
“It’s obviously a very horrible crime,” the official said. “We are getting in touch with the parties in the region and we are looking for action from the Palestinians — to do anything they can on those responsible and resolute action to prevent such things happening again.”
For the last 10 months, Palestinians and Israelis have clashed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The violence has killed at least 513 Palestinians, 131 Israelis, and 13 Israeli Arabs, excluding the victims of today’s attack.