Nine people were killed Monday after a Palestinian suicide bomber detonated himself at a crowded fast food stand near Tel Aviv's old central bus station, in the city's southern Neve Sha'anan neighborhood. At least 66 people were wounded in the huge blast, which was heard kilometers away, including one person who is in criticial condition and nine others who sustained serious wounds.
The explosion occurred around 1:30 p.m. at a shawarma stand, where a previous bombing took place. This time, however, the blast was much more powerful and deadly. According to a videotape released by the Islamic Jihad in Jenin, the attack was carried out by Sami Salim Khamad, who entered Israel from the West Bank. Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades also claimed responsibility for the attack. According to one eyewitness account, the terrorist entered the store and detonated himself when a security guard at the site asked him to open his bag for inspection.
Ynet News Online carries this account of the bombing as it related to one of the victims of this senseless carnage - Philip Balhasan, 45 of Ashdod, and father of two:
Balhasan's relatives said he traveled to Tel Aviv with his two children, Linor and Uri, after promising to buy them CDs and computer games for Passover. The family was apparently standing next to the fast food stand at the time of the explosion. Balhasan, who was still conscious, yelled out to his son to grab his cellular phone and call his mother to inform her of the attack. The son, Uri, recounted the moment of horror: "When we heard the blast, dad wrapped his arms around me and Linor and hugged us tightly. Then he said 'grab the phone, call mom and tell her about the attack.'" Shortly thereafter, Balhasan collapsed, but police officers who led him to an ambulance were able to talk to him and heard him say he was hurt by shrapnel and by the force of the blast. It appears some of the shrapnel hit Balhasan's heart and he died on the way to the hospital.
Balhasan's wife, Etti, was at work when she received her son's call. Her managers quickly drove her to Tel Aviv hospitals so she could look for her husband. After failing to locate him, the wife was forced to head to the forensics institute, where she identified her husband's body. The two children, Uri and Linor, sustained light wounds and were released from hospital following treatment. At this time, relatives are still in shock over the day's events, with Uri constantly repeating: "Dad was on the floor." Balhasan's brother-in-law, Emil, said "Philip loved to laugh and was loved everywhere. He had a presence. He was a great father." Balhasan is survived by his wife Etti and four children, Liran, 21, Lital, 19, Linor, 15, and Uri, 12.
As a parent I fully comprehend why Balhasan’s first impulse was to wrap his arms around his children and use his body as a shield to keep them from harm, but it is the grief that these two boys will have to carry for the rest of their lives that tears my heart. It is far too heavy and great a burden for ones so very, very young.
Hamas officials did comment and justified murder by shawarma stand as a case of Palestinian self-defense.
Hamas, whose heads said they would not recognize Israel's existence, has at the same time mostly refrained from resorting to violence – at least on the surface – but today that calm ended. Hamas spokesman Sami abu-Zohari said that the attack was an act of self defense: "Our public is carrying out defensive fighting and it has every right to use all means to defend itself." Minister for prisoners in the Palestinian government, Waspi Kabaha, said that the "the attack was carried out in the context of the legitimate Palestinian resistance and as a response to the violations of the occupation and its crimes."