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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 October, 2003, 22:11 GMT 23:11 UK
Eyewitness: 'Dead children and babies'
Israeli Police and forensics experts stand outside the Maxim restaurant, Haifa, 4 October 2003
The restaurant was popular with both Jews and Arabs
Witnesses have described a scene of carnage in a Haifa restaurant after the suicide bomber struck on Saturday.

At least three children were among the 19 Israelis killed in the attack, which also left up to 50 people injured.

The attack - claimed by Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad - ripped apart a popular seafront restaurant where Jews and Arabs had worked together and lived together for decades.

The Maxim restaurant, run jointly by a Christian Arab and a Jewish family, was packed with families having lunch when the female suicide bomber from the West Bank town of Jenin blew herself up.

"Suddenly we heard a tremendous explosion. We saw smoke pour out of the restaurant," said a passing motorist, Navron Hai.

We felt a blast and then everyone around us was either wounded or dead
Itamar Chizik
"Families were dead around the tables, there were children without limbs."

He said he and others went to help the injured, but found there was little they could do.

"We went in, about five or six of us and started to take the wounded out," he said.

"In truth there was not much to take out. There were not a lot of wounded, just a lot of people strewn on the ground. There was nothing to do, no way to help them."

Among the diners injured in the packed eatery were members of local football team Maccabi Haifa, including general manager Itamar Chizik.

"We were sitting with our sides toward the door of the restaurant, we didn't see who came in," he told Israeli media.

"We felt a blast and then everyone around us was either wounded or dead."

The emergency workers were a mix of Jews and Arabs, in a city known for its peaceful co-existence.

"This was a microcosm of Haifa, how we live and work in harmony despite our differences," said Mayor Yona Yahav.

Mooli Nir, 28, one of the Jewish owners whose grandfather opened the restaurant in 1965, said his family was numb with shock.

"Most of the people who work here are Arabs. I don't understand why they would do this," he said.

One of the Arab owners, Tony Matar, went to Haifa's Ramban hospital, where injured relatives and employees were taken.

"I can't hear the words Arab and Jew," he said. "We are all citizens of Israel. The pain is the same and it does not pass over any of us."




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