TEL AVIV, Israel – It was "Mediterranean Night" at the Seafood Market, a trendy restaurant and night club where Irit Rahamim and her girlfriends were singing and dancing, a celebration on the eve of her wedding.
The happy scene quickly turned to one of terror, gunfire and death.
A gunman opened fire at the revelers early Tuesday with an M-16 assault rifle, first shooting from an overpass outside, then entering and stabbing partygoers, witnesses said. Three people were killed and 31 wounded, police and rescue workers said, before the attacker was shot dead.
In the past 17 months of fighting, Tel Aviv had been relatively insulated.
The place where the violence made a rare intrusion into the seaside metropolis was a glass-front night spot with stainless steel fixtures and wicker furniture, its upscale image reinforced by its orange, English-language sign, "Seafood Market."
As shooting erupted, the shocked bride-to-be, a young woman with long black hair, was pulled beneath a table by girlfriends, ducking beneath the spray of gunfire that lasted 15 minutes, bullets whizzing into a window just above their heads.
From a mobile phone she left a frantic message on her fiance Liron's answering machine, with the rattle of gunfire in the background.
"I knew that was it, that I was going," she told Israel Army Radio. "I told him that I was sorry that I promised him that tomorrow we would have firecrackers and now I was hearing shooting. ... I knew I was going and I felt bad for Liron," she said, crying.
The couple plan to marry Wednesday — under heavy security. Liron, a professional soccer player, told Israel Radio that 40 armed guards would secure the wedding.
After the attack, the restaurant was a strange mixture of rubble and order. Its glass front was shattered all over the street in front. Some tables and chairs were overturned, while others were still set with linen napkins and half-full glasses.
In the middle of the street lay the night spot's trademark, a 2-meter-long orange model of a shrimp.
The attacker was identified as Ibrahim Hassouna, 20, a resident of the Balata refugee camp near Nablus and a member of the Al Aqsa Brigades, a militia linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.
The night club is in a five-story building in a commercial area of Tel Aviv, on Petah Tikva Road, a main thoroughfare southeast of downtown.
Shoe salesman William Hazan said he was in the club with his wife when the shooting started.
"I saw a tall man, who didn't look like an Arab at all, beating a shorter man," he told Israel Radio. "I thought he was beating the terrorist. Then the tall man stabbed me in the back with a knife. Then I understood that he was the terrorist. Right away I started firing at him."
Police said a mobile unit raced to the scene and an officer charged the attacker, shooting him dead.
Tel Aviv has been the target of several Palestinian attacks, most notably a suicide bombing outside a disco last summer in which 23 young Israelis were killed.
However, Jerusalem and other cities have been much harder hit, and Tuesday's shooting shook up the usually complacent Tel Aviv night scene.
Natan Zahavi, a well-known journalist and radio talk show host, wrote a column over the weekend in the Maariv daily about how he goes to the bar at the Seafood Market to relax and "ease the depression" from the violence.
He was there, too, when the shooting began.
"I was sitting there and was calm and was forgetting everything and then the shooting started," he told Army Radio.