Mike's Place Was Popular With Foreigners

Published April 30, 2003

| Associated Press

"Mike's Place," the English-language sign above the beachside watering hole in Tel Aviv (search), was left eerily intact after the homicide attacker struck early Wednesday.

The bomber and three other people died and 46 people were hurt, but witnesses said it could have been much worse -- if not for the action of a security guard who barred the bomber from entering.

Some recalled hearing the guard, known by his first name of Avi arguing loudly with the attacker before the blast at the nightspot only yards from the heavily guarded U.S. Embassy (search).

A witness identified only by his first name, Gil, told Army Radio that the guard at the bar prevented the bomber from entering. Israel Radio quoted witnesses as saying the guard argued with the bomber before the blast.

"The boom was just outside the entrance," said the owner of the bar, Gal Ganzman, his shirt covered with blood. "The security guard must have stopped him."

The injured security guard was in serious but stable condition, friends said.

Levi Rinkov, 23, was inside the bar when he heard the blast about 10 feet away.

"I pushed all the cooks from the kitchen and ran out the back entrance," he said.

He and his girlfriend were not hurt but a friend was wounded, he said.

Two of the dead were Israeli members of a band playing in the bar, police and patrons said.

The third victim was a French waitress, whose name was not released pending notification to her relatives, police said.

A militia linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah (search) movement claimed responsibility for the attack, along with the Islamic militant group Hamas. It came hours after the Palestinian parliament approved the Cabinet presented by new Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

In a similar attack last Thursday, a security guard at a train station north of Tel Aviv stopped a bomber and was killed when the attacker set off his explosives.

The bar is on Herbert Samuel Esplanade, a beachside walkway several miles long and a popular spot with foreigners. "Blues by the beach," the nightspot's sign advertised, with a beer logo on either side.

The bomb blew the front off the bar and wrecked furniture inside, but the sign above the door was untouched.

Volunteers from ZAKA, the group that gathers human remains for burial, scoured the scene.

David Baker, an official in the Israeli prime minister's office, said the attack was evidence that "Palestinian terrorism has not been reined in." He said the "new Palestinian government must seize this opportunity to stop these terror attacks, and it must be done now."

On June 1, 2001, a homicide bomber blew himself up in front of a disco at the southern end of the walkway, killing 21 people, mostly teenagers, in one of the bloodiest attacks in 31 months of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

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