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Saturday, October 04, 2003

O Lord our G-d hear our cry

Suicide Bomber Strikes Beachside Restaurant in Haifa on Shabbos

19 Dead including one entire family, three children, a baby, four Arabs -- Over 60 Wounded

At least 19 people were killed and 60 wounded when a Palestinian Arab (Islamic Jihad) terrorist blew herself up in Maxim's Restaurant around 2:15 Saturday afternoon. The restaurant was packed. Early reports were that the bomber first shot the security guard, before proceeding into the crowded restaurant; the Northern Region Police Commander said it remained unclear.

Maxim's was frequented by the Maccabi Haifa soccer team. Itamar Chizik, technical manager, Arieh Burstein and team coach Ronni Levi were there at the time of the blast and all three were lightly wounded. "We were sitting with our sides toward the door, we didn't see who came in,"said Chizik. "We felt an explosion and then everyone around us was either wounded or dead."

A motorist, identified only as Navon, said he was at a nearby junction when he heard the blast. "When I got to the area of the restaurant, we saw smoke and all the glass had been blown out. I parked my car. We went in,about five or six of us and started to take the wounded out. In truth, there was not much to take out. There were not a lot of wounded, just a lot of people strewn on the ground. There was nothing to do, no way to help them.

One entire family - from Kibbutz Yagur - was killed. Those victims were Bruria Zer-Aviv, 54, her son Bezalel, 30, his wife Keren, 29 and their two children, Liran, 4, and one-year-old Noya.

Another family lunching in the restaurant included a couple, their grown son and daughter and four grandchildren -- the son's three children aged 4, 9 and 11, and the daughter's 11-year old son. The story of relatives trying to locate them all is wrenching: The grandparents' daughter was injured and taken into surgery; two of her brother's three children were located - both had been seriously injured and were also in surgery. However, the grandparents, their son, one of his children and the son of his sister could not be found in any hospital.

"It was rare for them to go out for lunch," a relative who came to the hospital said.

The daughter's husband landed in Israel after a long flight from South America. He heard the bad news on landing and drove directly to the Forensic Medicine Institute at Abu Kabir. There, he waited all night to identify his wife's parents, his son, his brother-in-law and his nephew.

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The restaurant was apparently owned for the last 40 years by Jewish and Arab partners.

Nir Muli, the grandson of the restaurant's Jewish owner, was quoted in Haaretz as saying, "This restaurant was a symbol of coexistence. We never thought that this would happen to us." "Most of the people who work here are Arabs. I don't understand why they would do this," he said.

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The suicide bomber was an apprentice lawyer, according to Associated Press headlines "scarred by her brother's killing."

Her family was "shocked" to hear she was responsible, "but we are receiving congratulations from people," her brother said. "Why should we cry? It is like her wedding today, the happiest day for her," said the 15-year-old.