HADERA, Israel, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- A Palestinian suicide bomber Wednesday detonated a powerful bomb outside a falafel stand in Hadera's market, killed six people, including himself, and wounded at least 36 others.
As policemen in white overalls rummaged through the devastated, blackened food store and the piles of melons, onions and corns of the neighboring grocery stalls, the Islamic Jihad accepted responsibility for the attack and identified the bomber as Hasan Abu Zeid, 20, of the northern West Bank town of Kabatya.
An Islamic Jihad leader, Khaled Al-Batsh, told the Palestinian Ramatan news agency the attack was "a natural retaliation to the Israeli ongoing violations of truce, including the assassination of Loai al-Sa'di and Mohammed Sheikh Khalil."
Al-Sa'adi, the Islamic Jihad's commander in the West Bank, and Khalil were killed in a clash in Tul Karem earlier this week.
Israeli officials rejected the Islamic Jihad's argument. The group was behind this year's suicide bombings in Tel Aviv and in Netania, as well as the ambushing of an Israeli settler in the West Bank. Eleven Israeli were killed in those attacks.
Security sources said Monday that Sa'adi had been involved in "planning ... a suicide bombing inside Israel ... to be committed within the next few days." One of the possibilities reportedly considered is that he had been planning Wednesday's attack that other Islamic Jihad militants carried out after his death.
A senior government official noted Sa'adi was killed by chance when he became involved in Sunday night's gun battle. It was not a targeted killing, the official stressed. The soldiers did not realize whom they had killed Sunday night until they saw the dead gunman had a glass eye, the Yediot Aharonot newspaper reported Wednesday.
The suicide bomber targeted Barzilai's falafel stand, at the entrance to the market.
"I went to ear falafel and I saw a cloud (of smoke) and fire reaching the sky. Girls flew to the ground and people were shouting," Reuven Moshe, 58, of neighboring Givat Olga told United Press International. He said a worker in friend's vegetable stall was injured so he stayed with him until an ambulance evacuated the workers and then went to keep an eye on his friend's stall.
Moshe Andlo, 18, of Hadera, said he and a friend were eating a hamburger opposite the falafel stand when they heard the blast. They dropped the sandwiches and "saw bodies, blood, pieces of flesh," he said.
The suicide bombing was launched a few hours after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sharply criticized continued violence in an address to the Legislative Council in Ramallah.
Abbas said there was a Palestinian consensus to maintain quiet. Breaking that quiet also requires a consensus, he said.
"I am not here to defend the Israelis. ... The occupation is criminal but we should not give this enemy ... an excuse to fight us," he said.
After the attack, he told reporters in Ramallah the bombing was a "terrorist operation" that could widen the cycle of violence and bloodshed, according to Ramatan and the official Wafa news agencies.
Nevertheless militants representing several organizations in Gaza backed the Islamic Jihad attack, tacitly defying Abbas.
The suicide bombing thus fuelled Israel claims the Palestinian Authority is saying the right things about terror, but is not backing them with deeds to curb the militants.
"Israel is facing a planned terror attack," based on orders from Damascus and Teheran, a senior government official alleged.
Thus, a little over a month following Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, its politicians were talking about escalating Israeli military operations.
At a late night meeting in Tel Aviv, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz ordered a "wide scale operation" in the northern West Bank against the Islamic Jihad. It will include targeted killings, an authoritative defense source told United Press International. Israel will also respond "quickly" to attacks from the Gaza Strip, the source said.
Agriculture Minister Israel Katz criticized the drop in the number of targeted killings and called for a "continuous operation Defensive Shield" in which Israel returned to the West Bank towns to fight the militants. He criticized some of Israel's recent actions, such as supersonic booms over Gaza and the shelling of open areas following Qassam rocket attacks as being too tame.
Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra slammed the Palestinian Authority for not acting against the heads of the militant organizations "whom they no doubt know."
Alluding to international pressure on Israel to let more Palestinians come over to work, Ezra said the Palestinian authority "must check the people who leave the West Bank, if they want the Palestinians to go out to work. They do nothing."
Opposition leader Tommy Lapid of the centrist Shinui Party told the army radio station he could understand Abbas being too weak to stand up to the Hamas, but the Islamic Jihad is a small organization and if Abbas fails to tackle it "we shall deteriorate to a third intifada."