At least 16 people were killed in the suicide bombing of a Jerusalem bus Wednesday. At least 84 people were wounded in the explosion on Jaffa Street, a main thoroughfare in the city.
The blast tore apart the bus as it was about to pull away from a stop where it had picked up passengers near the large Mahane Yehuda open-air market. The Palestinian militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the bombing. Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Zahar said it proved that Palestinian fighters were capable of reaching Israelis anywhere.
Shortly after Wednesday's blast, Israeli helicopters fired rockets at a car in Gaza City. Reports said at least seven Palestinians were killed, including two military leaders of Hamas.
The Israeli attack comes a day after Hamas vowed to avenge Israel's attempt to kill a senior Hamas official. Abdel Aziz-Rantissi was wounded on Tuesday when Israeli helicopters fired several missiles at his vehicle in Gaza City. One of his bodyguards and a Palestinian woman were killed, and about 25 other people were wounded.
Earlier Wednesday, Israel said it has intelligence proving Mr. Rantissi helped plan attacks on Israelis. Israeli officials said the evidence shows the attempt to kill Mr. Rantissi was justified, and not intended to sabotage the "road map" for peace in the Middle East.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is said to have told a cabinet meeting Wednesday that his government will make no concessions to terror. A government official quoted Mr. Sharon as saying Israel made this clear to U.S. and Palestinian officials at the recent peace summit in Jordan.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has called for Hamas and other groups to suspend their attacks to give negotiations with Israel a chance to succeed. He has also ruled out using force against Hamas, saying his only course of action would be dialogue.
The Israeli cabinet issued a statement saying the operation against Mr. Rantissi was justified and that the government would take every action possible to ensure the security of its citizens.
The statement followed harsh criticism of the Israeli operation by President Bush, who said such acts would not enhance the security of Israel and also make it difficult for the Palestinian leadership to persuade militant groups to halt terror attacks.