Three civilians killed in Tel Aviv suicide bombing attack

Thursday, July 18, 2002

TEL AVIV, Israel -- Two suicide bombers blew themselves up seconds apart in downtown Tel Aviv Wednesday night, killing three civilians and wounding more than 40, police and witnesses said.

The attack took place between a cafe and a theater in a rundown neighborhood where many foreign workers live. Police said two of the dead were foreign laborers and many of the wounded were from Romania. Past Palestinian bombing attacks have targeted Israeli civilians.

The group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombings, according to the Al Manar TV station in Lebanon. Israel blamed the Palestinian Authority, but that group condemned the attack.

The suicide bombers were standing only 15 to 20 yards from each other when they set off the explosions on Neve Shaanan street in the southern part of the downtown area where foreign workers gather to socialize. The area is crowded with small shops and stalls.

They said three civilians and the two bombers died and more than 40 people were wounded.

Police earlier said the death toll was higher.

Dutzu Raduyan, a worker from Romania, said he heard an explosion, and the lights in his nearby apartment went out.

"Moments later we heard the second explosion. I went down" to the street, he said. "It was horrible, dead people were everywhere and the injured were screaming. I've never seen such a thing in my life." Shaken, he said he would take his family back to Romania.

About 300,000 foreigners work in Israel, replacing to a large extent the Palestinian laborers who have been barred from entering since the outbreak of fighting

With Israel's economy in a slump, employers welcome the cheap migrant workers, most of whom are in the country illegally and are willing to work long hours for less than minimum wage.

Karen Timbo, 21, a worker from Johannesburg, South Africa, said the explosions woke her up. She said she was puzzled by the attack. "We are not doing any harm," she said. "We just come here to work."

In a statement, the Palestinian Authority denounced the bombing attack as it "condemns operations targeting civilians, whether they are Palestinians or Israelis."

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