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Six Killed in Israel's Tel Aviv Bomb Attack
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At least six people were killed and over 40 others were wounded, eight of them seriously, in a suicide bombing attack near the old central bus station in Israel's commercial city of Tel Aviv Monday afternoon, police and rescue workers said.

Security sources said the bomber, who was also killed in the blast, may have been a woman.

The attack came just two hours before the newly-elected Knesset (Parliament) would hold an opening session to inaugurate new lawmakers in the 120-member legislature after the March 28 elections.

It also came at the height of the week-long Passover holiday when people were busy with travelling.

Monday's explosion ripped through Felafel Rosh Ha'ir, the same restaurant that was hit by an attacker on Jan. 19. Twenty people were wounded in that attack.

The restaurant is in the bustling Neveh Sha'anan neighborhood near Tel Aviv's central bus station in the south.

The Islamic Jihad (Holy War) and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed wing of the Fatah movement, both claimed responsibility for the attack.

A member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said that it had carried out the attack to avenge "Israeli massacres committed against our people in Gaza".

Security forces had warned of a number of attempts by the Islamic Jihad and other groups to attack the site in recent weeks.

Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Israel holds the newly-installed Hamas-led Palestinian government responsible for the bombing.

"This Palestinian Authority, which has clearly defined itself as a terrorist entity, has tried to instigate terrorist support more than the previous one did, and we will act accordingly," Gissin said.

A Hamas spokesman, meanwhile, called the bombing "an act of self-defense."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is currently in Jordan, condemned the suicide bombing attack as "an act of terrorism," according to "Voice of Palestine."

Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Abbas, also condemned the attack, urging all Palestinian factions to observe a cessation of violence. It was the first suicide bombing attack in Israel since Hamas took over the Palestinian government on March 29 after its election win on Jan. 25.

Hamas, which calls for destruction of Israel, has been observing a shaky ceasefire with Israel since last year. However, the ruling Palestinian faction is still unwilling to bow down over western demands to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept previous deals, despite mounting financial crisis and diplomatic isolation.

The Islamic Jihad, another violent radical group, has been involved in most of last year's suicide bombing attacks against Israel.

On Sunday, leader of the Islamic Jihad Ramadan Shallah said the militant group was making "nonstop efforts" to infiltrate suicide bombers from the West Bank into Israel.

(Xinhua News Agency April 18, 2006)

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