Several different Palestinian groups claimed responsibility for the attack. But by afternoon it became certain that the bombers had been part of the Al-Aqsa Brigades, a militant offshoot of Fatah, the mainstream Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) faction that is headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. After the attack, Fatah flags hung outside the Gaza home of one of the bombers, 22-year-old Luay Laghwani, where relatives said he should be celebrated as a martyr, the Associated Press reported.
The suicide bombing, the first in a year, rattles the tentative return to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking that was heralded in Annapolis, Md., last November, and which culminated in the visit to the region last month of President Bush, who has been pushing for a new Middle East peace deal by the end of his term.
Since Israel's well-guarded nuclear plant is more than six miles from the shopping center where the bombers struck, Israeli officials dismissed theories that this site was the true target. Dimona, mostly known as a hardscrabble desert town riddled with poverty, had never seen an incidence of terrorism. Most residents said that the quiet, off-the-radar feeling had abruptly come to an end.
Moshe Malka, a lawyer in the middle of a busy morning, heard the first explosion and ran downstairs. Amid the chaos and bloodshed, he saw an injured man lying on the ground and ran over to help him. Mr. Malka undid the man's jacket and saw that his middle was wrapped in an explosives belt.
In that moment, he said, he saw his life flash before his eyes.