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Friday, 18 January, 2002, 11:21 GMT
'Another dark day in Israel'
Relatives of the family holding the bat mitzvah
Mina (centre) had been celebrating her coming of age
It started out as a celebration of a momentous event for a Jewish family, the bat mitzvah - coming of age - of their 12-year-old daughter Mina.

It ended in a nightmare, with six people dead - including the girl's grandfather - and dozens injured.

You must not die at your bat mitzvah celebration

Friend of Mina Kardushova
Some 180 friends and relatives of the Kardushov family had packed into a dance hall in the northern Israeli town of Hadera on Thursday night.

Many people were getting up to dance when a Palestinian gunman carrying a M-16 rifle burst into the building.

"He entered the wedding hall and started shooting towards the patio," one eyewitness said. "He started shooting at the people and then he began running."

Gunman overpowered

Bottles and chairs were thrown at the attacker, who was pushed outside onto the street.

"I saw he was nervous, he couldn't reload," said the girl's father Constantine. "I quickly jumped on him. Me and my brother. I hit him, then all my relatives came, all my brothers. It was chaos."

A woman escorts an injured girl to hospital
A woman escorts an injured girl to hospital
Some people did not realise that a gunman had opened fire.

"Everybody was happy and dancing... suddenly I heard loud noises and I thought the sound system had broken down," the bat mitzvah girl, Mina Kardushova told the Israeli newspaper Maariv on Friday morning.

"A man in uniform passed by my uncle and we sensed he wasn't part of the celebration. We saw that he had a weapon. We realised he was shooting at us," she said.

Cycle of violence

She said her best friend told her to lie down saying: "You must not die at your bat mitzvah celebration."

The attacker, who was wearing a belt of ammunition and had a grenade, was shot dead by police outside the dance hall.

On Friday morning, passers-by laid candles outside the building in remembrance of the dead.

"The past year-and-a-half we've been stricken six times with vicious terrorist attacks," one said.

"Not far from here, just 200 metres from here, there was an attack two months ago, where two people were killed. Two girls, young girls, had their legs severely injured. Prior to that - it just goes on and on - it's almost hard to believe what takes place in a year-and-a-half in this city."

Also referring to the cycle of violence that has gripped Israel, the young girl's father Constantine asked "When will it all end?"

Government spokesman Arieh Mekel described the mood as many Israelis awoke to the news of another attack on civilians.

"The sun has risen over another dark day in Israel," he said.

See also:

03 Jan 02 | Middle East
Tough times for US Mideast envoy
14 Jan 02 | Middle East
Leading Palestinian killed in blast
10 Jan 02 | Middle East
Palestinian militants abandon truce
14 Jan 02 | Middle East
Profile: Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade
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