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Amid the screams, a baby's cry

A bomb exploded. Two dozen people lay sprawled on the ground. From their midst came a baby's wail.

Whose baby was this?

A policewoman with fear in her eyes _ filmed only a few minutes after Friday's bomb attack _ cradled the baby in her arms.

The baby's head was spotted with blood above a red-and-blue outfit, a clown for the Purim holiday.

Where was the mother? What about the father?

No one knew. Rescue workers took the baby to Ichilov Hospital.

In the next few hours, the baby became the subject of a series of news bulletins.

At 3:20 p.m., the hospital listed the baby _ a 6-month-old girl _ in stable condition with leg wounds.

At 4:30 p.m., still no word about the parents. Israeli media speculated that one or both of them might be dead.

At 5 p.m., Israel Radio quoted a witness, Pini Melkeh, who said he picked up the baby from her carriage, slapped her on the back and "she started crying, so I knew she was alive."

He said there was a woman on the ground next to the baby carriage, "lying with her face all burned."

Tal Zrihal, a host at the restaurant where the bomb exploded, had dressed in a black shirt and red Tom-and-Jerry tie for the festive day. "When I turned around, there was an explosion. Glass shards fell like rain. Everything was black with soot."

Zrihal clenched his nervous stomach and pulled at his left ear, deafened by the blast.

"Again in Purim. Every holiday, every day the Jewish people want to celebrate, they don't want us to be happy," he said. "They want to destroy us."

Nearby, his fellow workers hugged each other and cried, aware how few Israelis stand next to a suicide bomber and live to tell about it. One waitress recounted in shock how she had gone inside to fetch a salad for a handicapped woman seated on the terrace. When she returned after the blast, the woman was lying on the floor by her wheelchair.

"It was Purim and I was happy," said Benny Eran, who was busing tables when the restaurant exploded. "I had on a mask. Once a year we should be able to have fun. . . . But there was an explosion. I came out and people were running. There was a little girl in costume and her face was full of blood. We tried to help."

At 7 p.m. came the first bit of positive news.

The girl's father had arrived at the hospital. What about the mother? No one was saying. The rest would wait until morning.