TEL AVIV, Israel – The crowd of youths was waiting to enter the seaside night club just before midnight Friday when the suicide bomber pushed into the group, detonating his deadly package and turning their party into a night of carnage.
The explosion dispersed thousands of metal shards that had been packed into the bomb, cutting down people standing nearby and trashing the area. Four people were killed and more than 50 wounded.
"Suddenly there was this huge explosion and we just ran," said Merav Ayush, 20, who was on her way to the club when the explosion occurred.
"I saw a boy and a girl sitting on the ground. At the entrance to the club there were about 15 people just lying on the floor," Ayush said as she lay in a bed at the nearby Ichilov hospital. She was being treated for shock.
Friday night's blast ended several weeks of calm and delivered the first serious test to the unofficial cease-fire declared by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (search) this month. Palestinian officials and militant leaders blamed the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah (search).
Outside the devastated club early Saturday the bodies of a young woman and the bomber lay under white plastic bags in a pool of blood and shattered glass that covered the sidewalk. Three of the wounded died on their way to hospital, paramedics said.
"I was just about to get into my car, which was parked outside the club, when the explosion happened," said a witness, who identified himself only by his first name, Tsachi. "Body parts landed all over my car."
His friend standing nearby was hit by shrapnel in the leg, he said.
The blast, which police said was caused by an unusually large bomb for a suicide bomber, ripped the sign of the nightclub Stage off the wall, twisted and scorched cars parked nearby and scattered bottles from a nearby store into the street.
The windows of a restaurant across the road were shattered and a string of festive lights dangled forlornly from the wall.
Rescue workers took up the grisly task of searching the area for body parts, while police investigators combed the area, climbing onto balconies of nearby buildings, looking for fragments of the device.