TEL AVIV (Mar. 17)
Pieces of ceiling dangled at the end of electrical cords hanging over the carnage below — lifeless bodies, pools of blood, the injured shouting for help. The young Palestinian who blew up himself Monday at Mayor’s Falafel, near Tel Aviv’s old Central Bus Station, killed nine innocents when he detonated his metal- and nail-packed bomb.
It was the second time the restaurant has been hit in four months, and both times Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. This time, the Fatah movement’s Al-Aksa Brigades also claimed responsibility.
More than 40 people were injured in Monday’s attack, several of them critically, rescue officials said.
Guy Sadeh was among the first at the scene, passing by on his way to pick up new business cards. He helped treat and calm the injured.
“I saw things no one should see,” Sadeh, 36, said as he lay on a hospital gurney while being treated for cuts on his right foot. His khaki pants were splattered with blood.
The blue awning of the restaurant sagged under its shattered glass sign. Red police tape was quickly strung up. The force of the blast sent debris flying 30 feet around. Passersby wrangled for a closer look, and some took photos with cellphone cameras.
Fervently Orthodox men from the Zaka rescue service, wearing plastic gloves, black suits and orange vests, picked through the debris searching for body parts and pieces of flesh to be buried with the bodies. One Zaka member climbed a ladder to sponge off a nearby pole.
The whines of ambulance sirens were joined by the alarms of cars parked in front of the restaurant. Police forensic teams wearing white jumpsuits sifted through the twisted mangle of upturned tables and chairs in search of clues about the powerful bomb.
The bombing shattered the calm of the Passover holiday, a time when schoolchildren are on break and Israeli families visit relatives and friends, hosting barbecues in parks and by the sea.
The attack came just hours ahead of a swearing-in ceremony for the new Knesset. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert denounced the attack and assured his countrymen that Israel would know how to respond.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also condemned the attack, but it was excused by the P.A.’s Hamas leadership, which deemed it a legitimate response to Israeli actions.
Neveh Sha’anan, the southern Tel Aviv neighborhood where the attack took place, is a working-class area, home to many foreign workers. It has suffered six attacks since the intifada began in 2000.
In January, a suicide bombing at the same falafel stand killed no one but the bomber. The stand’s owners, three brothers, called the outcome a miracle and hired a security guard.
This time, the attack was much more devastating.
Rafi Ackler, 50, who owns a gift shop on the same block, said the bombing was bad for the country and bad for business.
“We were just beginning to recover from the other attack, when there was a drastic drop-off in business. We just started breathing again and this happens,” he said.
Noting the helicopters flying overhead and the cars in front of his shop that police had marked with an “X” — indicating that they’re not suspected of carrying explosives — he asked a friend, “What will be?”
Benny Schor, 42, who owns a printing press around the corner, said he’s too scared to eat out anymore.
“You never know when it is going to happen to you,” he said.