Mahmoud Abbas

TEL AVIV – The suicide bombing that wounded at least 22 here in Tel Aviv today was coordinated by the military wing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, despite a claim of responsibility by another group, WorldNetDaily has learned.

The Abbas-linked group warned more bombings will be carried out in Israel within the next 60 days ahead of the country’s March 28 elections.

Suicide bomber Sami Antar, 20, a resident of the Balata refugee camp in Nablus, blew himself up in a small restaurant in the southern section of the city near the main Tel Aviv bus station. Most of the injured were diners eating outdoors at the shop’s sidewalk seating area.

Rescue workers collect body parts at site of suicide bombing in Tel Aviv today (Photo: WND)

Security officials on the scene told WND the bomber exploded his suicide belt in the bathroom and may have been preparing the device for an attack at another location when it detonated prematurely.

The street outside the restaurant at the time of the explosion was crowded with shoppers and commuters. The front end of the shop was completely blown out. Neighboring stores were left largely intact. Body parts, believed to be from the suicide bomber, were being collected along with debris by rescue workers at the scene. The wounded were evacuated to area hospitals. Two injured reportedly are in critical condition.

Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the blast.

Jihad spokesman Khaled Al-Batch, speaking on his cell phone from the Gaza Strip, told WND “this attack was revenge for Israeli aggression against our people and for recent operations in Jenin. The Israeli enemy now sees we are easily able to infiltrate their cities and kill their people.”

Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for each of the six suicide bombings in Israel since a truce was signed between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last February. Today’s attack was the first suicide attack in Tel Aviv since the bombing of a seafront nightclub carried out in February, two weeks after the truce was signed.

Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat told WND he condemns today’s blast, calling it an act of “sabotage” against Palestinian legislative elections scheduled for next week.

“This bombing was carried out by the enemies of peace to sabotage the elections and the attempt to return the region back to the peace process,” said Erekat.

Tel Aviv restaurant bombed today (Photo: WND)

But senior terror leaders from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the declared military wing of Abbas’ Fatah party, told WND they largely were responsible for coordinating the attack.

Abu Jihad, the Al Asqa chief for the northern West Bank told WND in an exclusive interview to be released in full tomorrow, “We were behind this attack. We coordinate often with Islamic Jihad. In today’s case, Al Aqsa supplied the bomber with a martyrdom belt and we backed it in many other ways I can’t speak of.”

Al Aqsa is the most active Palestinian terror group in the Balata camp.

“Islamic Jihad is not very active like we are [in Balata],” Abu Jihad said.

Other senior members of the Al Aqsa cell stating they were involved in today’s attack previously told WND during in-person interviews they regularly receive funding from the Syrian and Iran-backed Hezbollah militia.

The Al Aqsa leaders, some speaking on condition their names be withheld, warned their group, along with Islamic Jihad, will attempt more suicide bombings in the next few weeks ahead of Israeli elections.

Islamic Jihad’s Al-Batch did not deny Abbas’ group was involved in today’s bombing.

“Yes, we do work with other groups. Whichever resistance organization the attacker came from doesn’t matter. It only matters that the Palestinian resistance was able to carry out a successful operation today in Tel Aviv,” Al-Batch told WND.

Any Al Aqsa involvement in Thursday’s attack would be a significant embarrassment for Abbas, who is facing elections next week and has pledged to fight terrorism and disarm the various Palestinian terror groups.

Al Aqsa leaders previously have admitted they were involved in attacks claimed by other groups.

Abu Carmel, a West Bank Al Aqsa leader, told WND last month: “We coordinate and collaborate [with Islamic Jihad] very often. It is true that we have excellent relations with our brothers in the Islamic Jihad. We felicitate our brothers in their heroic attacks, and we promise not to leave them alone in the campaign that Israel is leading against them.”

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