At least 16 people were killed in suicide bombings on two buses in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on Tuesday, Israeli television stations said. That made it the deadliest attack inside Israel since a bomber blew herself up at a restaurant in the northern city of Haifa on October 4, 2003, killing 23 other people. A Hamas leaflet claiming responsibility surfaced in the West Bank city of Hebron, 50 km from Beersheba, saying the attacks were meant to avenge Israel’s assassination of its two top leaders in helicopter missile strikes in March and April. “This is but one of a series of responses in which the Izz al-Deen al-Qassam Brigades have vowed to carry out in response to the martyrdom of the leaders of our movement, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi,” it said. Police sources said a bomber had boarded each of the buses several moments before the explosions in the centre of the city, informs Daily Times. According to NEWS, the explosions went off shortly before 3pm (10am AEST) near the city hall, completely destroying one of the buses and setting ablaze the second which was just 100m away. Text books and satchels, bought by parents on the eve of the new Israeli school year, were soaked in the pools of blood on the streets of the normally serene capital of Israel's Negev desert. Police spokesman Gil Kleiman said no specific alerts had been received prior to the blasts but that there had been "general warnings". Hamas said it had carried out the latest attack in response to the killing of two of its leaders in Gaza, Abdelaziz Rantissi and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, in air strikes earlier this year. "You are mistaken if you think that the assassination of our leaders will weaken our determination to continue our struggle," said a statement addressed to Sharon and Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz. The premier said his government would not relax its "fight against terror". Yesterday's suicide attack was the first successful one since 10 workers were killed at Ashdod port five months ago and only the second bombing of any kind inside Israel this year. Ya'acov Terner, the city's mayor and former national police chief, vowed that the new school year would start today as planned, but "the joy has gone out of it". Eli Oren, now in hospital, was in the second bus. "I saw the bus ahead of us blow up," he said. "The roof flew off, then ours blew up too. There was a silence as everybody was flung in all directions. Two hours later I'm still in shock and my ears are still ringing." A few hours before the Beersheba bombing, an Israeli policewoman stopped and disarmed a would-be suicide bomber at Gaza's Erez checkpoint. He was said to be wearing an explosive belt sewn to look like underpants, publishes Independent.
Read earlier news stories by PRAVDA.Ru &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/world/2002/09/20/36950.html ' target=_blank> Pravda.RU Who Needed Yesterday's Blast in Israel?