Suicide bomber kills 3 in Israel's Eilat resort

By Rami Amichai
Monday, January 29, 2007; 7:46 AM

EILAT, Israel (Reuters) - A Palestinian suicide bomber on Monday killed three people in a bakery in the Red Sea resort of Eilat, one of Israel's most popular holiday spots, in the first such attack in the Jewish state in nine months.

Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed joint responsibility for the bombing.

The attack -- the first time Eilat has been hit by a suicide bombing -- came four days before the so-called Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators was to meet in Washington as part of a renewed effort to revive Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

Islamic Jihad and the Aqsa brigades said the bombing was a response to Israeli "attempts to defile al-Aqsa mosque" in Jerusalem, a reference to recent archaeological excavations. Israeli officials said the work had not damaged the shrine.

The blast tore through the "Lechamim" bakery in a residential neighbourhood far from a strip of beach hotels. Loaves of bread, still on trays, lay on the blood-stained pavement outside.

"I saw a man with a black coat and a bag. For Eilat, where it is hot, it is strange to see someone walking with a coat. I said to myself, 'Why is this idiot dressed that way?' Seconds later, I heard a huge blast. The building shook," Benny Mazgini, a local resident, told Israel Radio.

The identities of the victims were not released.

"The heroic operation announces the beginning of a series of operations in defense of al-Aqsa mosque and it was a natural response to savage aggression by the occupation (Israel)," Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Brigades said in a statement.

In broadcast remarks, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said: "We will take the necessary steps. I am not going to say now what we will do."


Mickey Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the national police, said three people and the bomber were killed in the bakery. Police initially said the explosion was caused by a gas leak.

A spokesman for the Aqsa brigades, part of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, identified the suicide bomber as Mohammad Faisal Siksik, 21, from Gaza City, a member of the brigades' "Army of Believers'.

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