tel aviv bombing 2 .
(photo credit: Zaka (Nati Shapira))
"The brothers are okay," the locals near Tel Aviv's old bus station reassured one another. They were referring to the two owners of the Rosh Ha'ir shwarma and felafel stand, where Monday's suicide bombing occurred less than four months after an Islamic Jihad terrorist exploded there on January 19.
Itzik Sharon, one of the two owners, had been lightly injured during the first attack. The stand was immediately reopened following the attack, and surrounded by a fence as a security measure. In addition, the owners hired a security guard to stand at the entrance. The guard was killed in this attack, ripped in half by the blast.
Also among the dead was a mother, struck down in front of her children.
"The children screamed, "Mom! Mom!" but she didn't answer - she was dead already," eyewitness Israel Yaakov said, adding that the youngsters apparently suffered only slight physical injury.
The blast shattered the windshields of cars and blew out the windows of nearby buildings. Glass shards and blood splattered the ground up to 25 meters away. The staff at Ichilov Hospital said the bomb had been packed with a large number of nails and metal bolts, to maximize the carnage.
Six of the victims died immediately, three died later in hospitals.
The wounded were initially treated on sidewalks. One man was laying on his side, his shirt pushed up and his back covered with bandages. A bleeding woman was wheeled away on a gurney. A dazed-looking man walked near the site, his white T-shirt splattered with blood.
A 13-year-old immigrant from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, who gave his name only as Giorgi, wanted to know which of the emergency workers was responsible for collecting body parts.
"I found some bits of flesh," he told a reporter, pointing to two pieces splattered on a parked car. "Who deals with flesh?"
Menachem Indig, a ZAKA volunteer, arrived immediately after the attack. "The sight that awaited us upon arrival was very difficult, there were dozens of injured people, and we started treating them immediately," he said.
The shwarma stand, the only kosher one in the neighborhood according to local residents, attracted a particularly large crowd during the Passover holiday. Following the explosion, unopened packages of matza remained on the ground amidst the debris outside the restaurant.
"I had just gone by the restaurant," said Etti Halabi, who lives one block away. "They were running out of matza, and I offered to bring some over from my apartment. I brought some down, went back home to get more, and was about to go back there with the packages when I heard the explosion and my legs froze."
Asia Lazarov, an immigrant from the FSU, who lives close to the site of the bombing, was also inside the restaurant when the attack took place. "I saw something that looked like lightening, and then shrapnel flying through the air," she said. "It's too frightening to live here," she added. "Our life is constantly in danger."
"This is the sixth bombing I have witnessed here," said Benni Hasin, who owns the shop next door to the Sharon's shwarma stand, together with his brother. "My car, my store, it's all gone now."
A 17-year-old Jahun Ismailov, who worked in the restaurant's kitchen, survived both attacks there. He and his cousin, David Mansharov, were both lightly injured in the second attack and were recovering at Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv. "I was on a lunch break during the first attack, so nothing happened to me," Ismailov said.
He, his siblings and mother, he said, immigrated from Azarbaijan several years ago, and he left school in order to support his family. "I was afraid to go back there after the first attack, but I had no choice because we need the money," he said.
MK Eli Yishai (Shas), who arrived at the hospital to visit the wounded, told reporters there that he was on his way to the swearing in ceremony at the Knesset when he heard of the attack.
"I made a U-turn and came here instead," he said, adding that he believed the ceremony could have been postponed following the attack.
Customer Atef Huda, an Arab taxi driver, was convinced that the Sharon brothers were spared because of their acts of charity.
"They give food, what's left, to the poor. Anyone who is poor who asks for food, they don't take money from them," Huda said. "That's why they were not injured."
Pini Sharon, who was home at the time of the attack while his brother tended to the shop, was informed of the explosion by the police.
"I think this time we are going to close," he told reporters when he arrived at the restaurant. "How much more can we take?"
AP contributed to this report.