An explosion late Friday on a crowded beach front in Tel Aviv killed 17 people, including a suicide bomber who had mingled with young people outside a disco, Israel army radio reported.  At least 74 people have been reported injured.    

The blast went off about 11 p.m. at the entrance to a nightclub named Pascha that faced a promenade area lined with restaurants, bars and hotels — all packed with Israelis enjoying the start of their Sabbath weekend.

"The terrorist exploded outside the entrance to the disco when there were people around him," said David Klausner, deputy head of the Tel Aviv police.

The nightclub is inside a former aquarium on the beachside boardwalk. A witness told Israel Radio that the bomber had stood with a group of young people waiting to get in.

A 20-year-old woman who gave her name only as Vered said, "We were right across the street. We heard a huge explosion, and we ran away."
  
Another witness told Israel Radio, "I saw people fly through the air. There were lots of wounded."

Helicopters hovered overhead. Thirty ambulances raced to the scene of the blast, which occurred at about 11 p.m.

The bloodstained gloves of paramedics lay on the sidewalk, along with personal effects left by those who were injured.

Panicked drivers raced away from the scene at high speed.

There was no immediate word on who carried out the attack, but in recent months of Israeli and Palestinian fighting, Islamic militants have detonated more than a dozen bombs.

The Islamic militant group Hamas has said it would carry out at least 10 suicide bombings and so far has claimed responsibility for eight.

Israel security forces have been on high alert but have been unable to block the border with the West Bank to prevent infiltration.

Since fighting erupted last September, 483 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and 88 on the Israeli side, including 24 settlers.

The blast capped a week after the United States restarted efforts to bring the two sides together again. Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs held two rounds of talks and U.S. diplomats met with Israeli officials to discuss implementation of a report by an international commission headed by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell. The report recommended a staged process of an end to violence, confidence-building measures and a return to negotiations.

However, there have been no Palestinian-U.S. meetings over the Mitchell report since the U.S. expressed displeasure over Palestinian representation at another track of talks, involving security commanders, according to an official close to the negotiations who demanded anonymity.