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Sunday, 31 March, 2002, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Blast in Haifa restaurant 'kills 12'
The blast blew the roof off the building
The restaurant was crowded at the time of the arttack
A huge explosion has ripped through a restaurant in the northern Israeli coastal city of Haifa.

Reports from the scene say that at least 12 people have been killed and more than 30 wounded. Several of the injured are in a critical condition.

The force of the blast blew a hole through the retaurant roof.

"We are talking about a suicide bomber," northern Israeli police commander Yaakov Borovsky told reporters at the scene.

"The place was filled with a large number of people, so we have many casualties."

This is the fourth such attack since the start of the current Jewish Passover holiday.

The blast happened on Sunday afternoon in the Matza restaurant, near a petrol station and just outside a shopping mall.

A witness, Shimon Sabag, told Israel Radio: "Watching people on fire is just horrible. I heard an explosion, I went into the gas station and I started to deal with the injured people.

"I couldn't deal with the critical injuries so I turned to the moderate. I tried to put out the fire. Even the moderate injured were on fire."

On Saturday, a suicide bombing in a Tel Aviv restaurant injured 30 Israelis.

The latest attack came as Israeli troops fought a fierce gun battle with the bodyguards of besieged Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in rooms adjacent to his West Bank office in Ramallah.

Elsewhere in Ramallah, the Palestinians reported mass arrests as the Israelis used loudspeakers to summon all males between 16 and 50 for questioning.

The BBC's Paul Wood in Jerusalem
"Neither side sees any way out"
See also:

31 Mar 02 | Middle East
Gun battle erupts in Arafat offices
30 Mar 02 | Middle East
Bush tells Arafat to stop militants
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