30 Israelis hurt in attack on mall

NETANYA (Israel) MARCH 30. An Islamic militant blew himself up in a crowded pedestrian mall in the Israeli coastal town of Netanya on Sunday, killing himself and wounding 30 bystanders in the first such attack in nearly a month.

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.

The assailant's motives were not immediately known, but Israeli officials said that since the start of the U.S.-led offensive against Iraq 10 days ago, they've been on high alert for a fresh wave of bombings by Palestinian militants.

The blast went off shortly before 1 p.m. (local time) near Cafe London, an outdoor coffee shop along Netanya's crowded pedestrian mall. A security guard prevented the bomber from entering the cafe, and the assailant instead blew himself up near a group of soldiers standing outside, police and witnesses said. ``There was a huge explosion,'' said a worker at a nearby fish restaurant. ``I saw two soldiers thrown to the ground and the terrorist ripped to pieces at the entrance.''

At least six of the wounded were in serious condition, hospital officials said.

The bomber's mangled body lay on the pavement. The Islamic Jihad group said the assailant was from the West Bank city of Nablus, but would not give his name. Outside the cafe, chairs and tables were overturned, and the sidewalk was littered with torn clothing, broken plates and bits of flesh.

Israeli officials said they have been on alert for a new wave of Palestinian attacks because of the offensive against Iraq. ``The (Palestinian) motivation to harm Israel and to help the Iraqi struggle is well known to us and it comes across in all the intelligence reports,'' said Israel's Police Minister, Tsahi Hanegbi. — AP

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