hadera fatalities 298.
(photo credit: Channel 2)
A suicide bomber blew himself up at 3:35 p.m. on Wednesday while standing in a queue of people in the market at the center of the northern town of Hadera.
A local shop owner said he heard the explosion in the popular Barzilai felafel stand, which has been run by the same family for some 60 years, and went outside to offer assistance. Within minutes, however, emergency services were already at the scene.
He said parts of bodies had been blown several meters away from the scene of the explosion. The blast wrecked parts of the stand and neighboring stores, as well as eucalyptus trees in the area.
Hadera Mayor Haim Avitan was leaving the municipality building at the time of the explosion. "I thought at first that it was a sonic boom, but I was told it was a terrorist attack," said Avitan, who went to the scene moments after being informed.
"It really looked like a scene after a pogrom, but the security forces reached the area within minutes and our wardens with their help ensured that the roads were kept clear to evacuate the casualties."
Apart from the suicide bomber, four people were killed at the scene and another who was critically wounded died on the operating table at Hadera's Hillel Yaffe Hospital. Two people suffering from serious injuries were transferred to Kfar Saba's Meir Hospital and Sheba Hospital at Tel Hashomer.
Among the casualties was one of the owners of the felafel stand, who had taken over from his brother who had been there from the morning, as well as a worker and some customers.
According to reports, the bomb contained some five kilograms of explosives, as well as scores of metal balls and nails to maximize casualties.
Keren Davido, a local resident, told reporters that if the attacker had struck in the morning, the overall casualty total would have been much higher.
Eyewitnesses reported having seen a car with two Arabs inside that drove away from the market area shortly before the blast. Police set up roadblocks in the vicinity after the attack and said that all reports were being thoroughly investigated.
The suicide bombing could also have been timed to coincide with the anniversary of the killing 10 years ago in Malta, allegedly by Mossad agents, of Islamic Jihad founder Fathi Shaki.
Security sources maintained, however, that organizations such as the Islamic Jihad, funded directly by Iran and which received some of its orders from its leadership in Syria, always had some anniversary to use as a pretext for attacks.
Police stressed that there were general alerts about pending terror attacks, especially in the wake of the killing of Sa'adi which had led to Kassam rocket fire on Sderot and western Negev communities on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The IDF responded to that rocket fire with artillery fire towards open spaces in the Gaza Strip as well as overflights by IAF warplanes that broke the sound barrier.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.