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Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades Claim Responsibility for Tel Aviv Explosion - 2002-03-30

In Israel, the violence continues to terrorize the public with an explosion outside a Tel Aviv cafe. At least one person was killed and two dozen others injured, several seriously. Israeli TV says Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades has claimed responsibility. The militant group, which is linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, is on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations.

The explosion ripped through a popular cafe at nine o'clock in the evening, just when Israelis were celebrating the end of the Sabbath. Rescue teams have rushed to the scene of the explosion in the heart of Tel Aviv's entertainment district.

The coastal city had been relatively quiet and untouched by recent terrorist actions.

The blast comes just one day after another teenage suicide bomber killed two people and herself at a Jerusalem supermarket. Last Wednesday, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 22 people in a seaside resort just north of Tel Aviv as they were celebrating the start of the Passover holiday.

In response to the spate of killings, Israeli forces rolled into the West Bank town of Ramallah early Friday and blasted into the compound of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Israel's military is in control of most of the compound. Mr. Arafat and several aides remain under siege inside his office building there. Power and water in the compound has been cut off.

Israel says it aims to isolate the Palestinian leader but has no intention of harming Mr. Arafat personally. A top Palestinian official says Israel's army has warned Mr. Arafat it could storm his office to arrest suspected terrorists who may be hiding there.

Israeli troops have been rounding up Palestinian men in Ramallah between the ages of 15 and 45 for questioning. They have also surrounded the headquarters of Mr. Arafat's West Bank security chief.

Tanks have entered other Palestinian towns on the West Bank in what Israel describes as a campaign to destroy terrorist infrastructures in Palestinian territories to prevent more attacks against Israel.

In his first comments since the Israeli military attack on Mr. Arafat's compound, U.S. President George Bush says the Palestinian leader can do a lot more to prevent attacks against Israelis. He added that the United States supports Israel's right to defend itself.

His peace envoy, Anthony Zinni, has been in Israel for more than two weeks trying to broker an end to the violence but without success.