TA suicide bombers were British Muslims - Hamas/FATAH Cooperation
- May. 1, 2003
TA suicide bombers were British Muslims
By MARGOT DUDKEVITCH AND DANIEL BEN-TAL
Two British Muslims took part in what was to have been a double suicide bombing at Mike's Place pub in Tel Aviv late
Tuesday night, security officials revealed Wednesday night. Three people were murdered and 60 wounded when one of the
bombers detonated after being blocked by a security guard.
Ran Baron, 24, of Tel Aviv, Yanai Weiss, 46, of Holon, and French-born Dominique Caroline Hess, 29, were slain.
Twenty people remained hospitalized later Wednesday, including six who were in serious condition.
The security guard, identified as Avi, had stopped the bomber at the entrance to the crowded pub before the explosion.
He was seriously wounded.
"It appears that the security guard's actions prevented a far more serious disaster, had the terrorist succeeded in
getting inside," Tel Aviv police chief Cmdr. Yossi Sedbon said.
The Shin Bet and Israel Police are requesting the public's assistance in locating Omar Khan Sharif, 27, who accompanied
the suicide bomber, identified as Assif Muhammad Hanif, but was unable to detonate his bomb and fled the area shortly
after Hanif detonated his.
Officials said Sharif scuffled with people minutes after the attack, but succeeded in getting rid of his bomb and
fleeing. A second security guard employed at Mike's Place and a taxi driver reportedly pursued Sharif, who managed to
evade them, but they picked up a coat he left behind and handed it over to authorities.
A gag order imposed on the investigation was partially lifted in order to release details of the two terrorists to the
public, officials said, noting that Sharif may have disguised himself, making it difficult to recognize him from his
Officials ask that members of the public who spot Sharif or saw the two prior to the attack contact the nearest police
station or call the police 100 hot line.
Hamas and the Aksa Martyrs Brigade claimed joint responsibility for the attack.
A spokesman for the Aksa Martyrs' Brigades said the attack was a message to new Palestinian Authority Prime Minister
Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) that "nobody can disarm the resistance movements without a political solution."
Health Minister Dan Naveh told Israel Radio the bombing indicates that "there are still many factions within the PLO and
the Fatah that are interested in continuing the attacks... As long as Abu Mazen is in his position but [PA Chairman
Yasser] Arafat continues to go behind his back and encourages the terror, we will not see a change."
Mike's Place, a pub and restaurant popular with foreigners, is just a few meters from the heavily guarded US Embassy.
"Avi, the security guard, is an old friend of mine. He's now in a stable condition, thank God," Mike's Place co-owner
Gal Ganzman, 29, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
"We were holding our regular Tuesday night open jam, and the pub was full of musicians and revelers," he said.
"I remember a flash of light, followed immediately by an enormous explosion. It took a few seconds before I understood
what had happened. People didn't panic, rather helped each other to get out of the place.
"Policemen arrived quickly but didn't help with the wounded. Five or six people were lying on the ground we applied what
first aid we could until the ambulances arrived."
Ganzman was later treated for shock in the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva. "I was seen by a
psychologist, psychiatrist, ear specialist, and social worker before being released," he said. "It was like a flashback
to Lebanon for me. I'll never forget that smell of burning flesh."
He said he was worried who would inform the parents of slain waitress Dominique Hess, who live in France. "Dominique
worked here from the day we opened. She came to live in Israel alone, and we were her family here. She was my best
"We've been in contact with all our staff this morning we're a family here, and now we've lost a dear sister."
Twelve hours after the suicide bomber denoted himself outside the beachfront pub, property tax assessors were busy
tallying the damage. Nearby, an impromptu memorial of candles and flower wreaths began to form.
Tali Barkan, 30, a regular at Mike's Place, appeared distraught. "I've been sitting outside on the sidewalk with a
bottle all night," she cried. "I also witnessed the Dolphinarium attack. I've stopped counting how many dead people I've
seen. I saw bodies being carried out of the pub last night. Enough already!"
The Buzz Stop next door stayed open all night. "It was our way of saying to the terrorists that we won't give in to
them," explained an exhausted barman. "They do not understand that we Israelis refuse to stop living."
Officials noted that this is not the first time that foreign nationals have been involved in terrorist attacks here.
Last October, security officials arrested Fawzi Ayoub, 38, a senior Hizbullah official, who entered the country on a
forged US passport to assist terrorist organizations in the territories. Ayoub had participated in numerous attacks in
and outside Lebanon.
After undergoing training, Ayoub was sent to Canada, where he lived for a number of years. He maintained contact with
Hizbullah and carried out a number of missions for it. On returning to Lebanon, he was recruited to carry out a
dangerous covert operation in Israel. He underwent intensive military training and was then sent to Europe, where he
received a forged passport that he was to use to enter Israel.
In January 2001, security officials arrested Hizbullah agent Jihad Shuman, who had a British passport in the name of
Gerard Shuman, six days after his arrival.
Shuman, who studied computers at Beirut University, is a Lebanese Shi'ite by descent. He was ordered to travel to
London, where he was instructed to purchase a cellphone and rent a post office box and apartment, which he was to give
out as his address when he arrived in Israel.
He was told to find a spot in the Wadi Joz section of Jerusalem, where certain items had been hidden for him. When
arrested in his hotel room, he had a kippa, timers, a large sum of money, and three cellphones in his possession.
Palestinian security officials told The Jerusalem Post the joint Hamas-Aksa Martyrs Brigade statement is further
evidence of increased coordination between Hamas and Fatah gunmen in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Since the beginning of the current violence, the armed wings of Hamas and Fatah have carried out a number of joint
attacks against Israeli targets on both sides of the Green Line. But this is the first time that the two groups jointly
claim responsibility for a suicide attack.
"There is a lot of coordination between Fatah and Hamas on the ground, especially in the northern part of the West
Bank," said one security official. "This is one of the results of the destruction of the Palestinian Authority's
The official added that in the Jenin, Balata, and Tulkarm refugee camps, "there is no longer any difference between
Hamas and Fatah."
Khaled Abu Toameh and AP contributed to this report.