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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Witnesses speak of bomb horror
Rescue worker surveys wrecked interior of club
It was the first such attack for more than three weeks
Eyewitnesses have been telling how a typical evening out at a pool hall in the Israeli town of Rishon Letzion turned into a nightmare of terror and destruction after it was targeted in the latest suicide bomb attack.

"There was a massive blast that really hit you in the face," said one witness.


The entire floor flew in the air. It looked like a terrible dream

Hanir Azulei
"There were just people screaming and screaming from inside the building, covered in blood. Others were just running around, injured."

The force of the blast on the third floor of the building housing the Sheffield Club blew people out of the windows and into the yard below, local resident Aaron Cohen said.

Another passer-by, Hanir Azulei, said the entire floor "flew in the air. It looked like a terrible dream".

One of the club's regulars recalled that he was chatting about football with a friend one moment, only to find himself stumbling through a smoke-filled void the next.
Police and rescue workers gather outside the bombed-out building
Regulars said the club, in the town's industrial area, had no security guard

On the pavements outside, many onlookers were in tears as they gazed up at the bombed-out building.

Correspondents say the blast shattered a growing sense of relief that had been creeping into daily life in Israel since the massive military offensive in the West Bank seemed to stem an almost daily tide of suicide attacks and shootings.

The last time a suicide bomber managed to strike was on 12 April, when a young woman blew herself up in a crowded market in Jerusalem.

Security

The blast, which left 16 dead including the bomber, sheered away the outside walls of the pool hall,"exposing its wrecked interior like the inside of a doll's house", the French news agency AFP said.


If they can do this here, they can do it anywhere

Student in Rishon Letzion
Emergency crews worked for hours to recover the scorched, mangled bodies from the mounds of twisted girders and collapsed ceiling tiles in the club which was popular with teenagers and crowded at the time of the blast.

One man told police he had seen the bomber walking up the stairs to the pool hall and asked him where he was going.

But the man did not reply and kept walking - apparently setting off explosives hidden in a suitcase after taking a few steps into the club.

"This was the only place that didn't have a guard," a 23-year-old student called Roy said.

"Rishon Letzion is the heart of Israel. In Israel, nowhere is safe now. If they can do this here, they can do it anywhere," he said.

See also:

07 May 02 | Middle East
In pictures: Israel bomb blast
08 May 02 | Middle East
Sharon anger over suicide bombing
07 May 02 | Middle East
Bethlehem snags blight Sharon talks
07 May 02 | Middle East
Italy 'in dark' over Bethlehem deal
07 May 02 | Americas
Sharon steps up diplomacy
08 May 02 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
08 May 02 | Middle East
UN condemns Israel over Jenin
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