Palestinians celebrate the murders
ASHDOD, Israel — Two Palestinian suicide attackers exploded bombs in this closely guarded Israeli seaport on Sunday, killing nine Israeli bystanders and wounding 18, police said.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a militant group with ties to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, claimed responsibility, saying it carried out the bombings with the Islamic militant Hamas. There was no immediate word from Hamas.
It was the first suicide attack on an Israeli seaport in more than three years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, underscoring Israel’s vulnerability despite stringent security measures.
Ashdod is on the Mediterranean coast in the southern part of Israel, not far from the Gaza Strip which is surrounded by a security barrier.
Israeli Cabinet Minister Yosef Paritzky said the assailants “found a weak point and exploited it.”
“A port, by nature, is a very busy place,” he said. “There are many people coming and going. It is impossible to seal the entire country hermetically.”
The explosions went off just before 5 p.m. in two separate areas of the port. Port worker Sami Pinto said that he saw smoke from the explosion near the fence of the port facility and in a workshop inside.
“One of our workers who was lightly wounded told me that the terrorist came in and asked for water, and the moment he showed him where there was a tap, he blew up,” Pinto told Israel Army Radio.
Police said two bodies near the scene were suicide bombers. Rescue services spokesman Yerucham Mendola said “some of the victims were thrown a long distance” by the blasts.
The choice of target was unusual. In 111 previous suicide bombers, Palestinian attackers often chose buses, cafes and shopping malls, killing more than 450 people.