11 killed in double suicide bombing in Ashdod port

14.03.2004 Eleven people were killed in two explosions Sunday afternoon at the Ashdod port. The blasts were caused by two suicide bombers. Police on Sunday raised the level of alert across the country due to fears of an additional terror attack. One of the bombers reportedly exploded just outside the main gate to the port at around 5 P.M. The second managed to enter the facility and detonated his bomb just a short time later in a centrally-located workshop inside the port. At least 14 people were wounded in the blasts. The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack and urged Palestinians to stop such attacks immediately. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called off a meeting scheduled for Tuesday with Palestinian premier Ahmed Qureia following the attack. Southern region police chief Moshe Karadi said the bombers used a different type of bomb than usual, and may have been trying to blow themselves up next to tanks of bromide or other dangerous chemicals stored in the port, causing far greater casualties. He went on to say that although the bombers blew up some distance from the chemical storage area, they might have exploded prematurely. „It may be that they had an accident before they reached the intended target.”

Fatah and Iz a Din al-Kassam, the Hamas military wing, claimed joint responsibility for the attack in a statement to Hezbollah television station Al-Manar. Al-Manar identified the two suicide bombers as Nabil Saoud and Mohammed Salem, both 17 and classmates in eleventh grade at a high school in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Israel Defence Forces officials believe that the terrorists arrived in Ashdod from the Gaza Strip. Shin Bet and IDF officials are looking into the possibility that the suicide bomber infiltrated into Israel through the fence surrounding the Gaza Strip. They are also considering the possibility that they arrived at Sinai through the Rafah underground tunnels, and from there traveled to an area in the Negev that is not separated by a fence. Eight teams of firefighters reached the scene of the blast, as did a number of police officers and Magen David Adom emergency medical workers. Helicopters were also used to evacuate casualties. Casualties of the blasts were evacuated by MDA teams to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot and Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, outside Tel Aviv. It was the first attack of its kind at an Israeli seaport since fighting broke out in September 2000. In 111 previous suicide bombing attacks, more than 450 people have been killed. It was initially believed that the blasts were the result of a work accident involving a gas cannister at the port. Port worker Sami Pinto said that when he entered the port, he saw smoke from the explosions near the fence of the facility and one in a workshop inside the port. „Five bodies of our workers were lying there and two more bodies outside the fence,” Pinto told Israel Army Radio. „One of our workers who was lightly wounded told me that the terrorist came in and asked for water and the moment he showed him where there was a tap he blew up,” Pinto said. Rescue services spokesman Yerucham Mendola said „some of the victims were thrown a long distance” by the blasts. BPI.