Israeli warplanes have bombed the home in Gaza City of a senior leader of the militant group Hamas, lightly injuring him. At least three people are reported killed and at least 20 others wounded in the missile strike. The attack comes just a day after two suicide bombings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem killed at least 15 people and injured dozens more.
The target of the missile strike was Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar. His house was destroyed and his son and bodyguard are reported among those killed. Rescue efforts were underway as an angry crowd gathered around the site.
The Israeli action comes after two suicide bombings within hours of each other on Tuesday. The first occurred at a bus stop near Tel Aviv, during the evening rush hour. Hours later, a second bomb attack struck a crowded café in west Jerusalem.
Israel had been bracing for a round of attacks, after a failed attempt last Saturday to kill Hamas founder and spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin. Hamas vowed revenge.
Violence has increased in recent weeks since a Hamas suicide bombing in Jerusalem in mid-August. Israel has since then carried out a number of missile strikes against Hamas leaders and each side has, in essence, declared war on the other.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is cutting short his visit to India by a day. Mr. Sharon told journalists in New Delhi the Palestinian bombings show that terrorism must be fought with all means. An Israeli spokesman said the blame lies not only with the terrorist groups but also the Palestinian Authority, which he said is doing nothing to stop them. A number of Israeli officials are calling for tougher measures against Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, which could include forcing him into exile.
The Palestinian leadership has called on President Bush to interfere to stop the bloodshed and save the peace process. Palestinian parliamentary speaker Ahmed Korei condemned the bombings. Mr. Korei has been nominated to be the next Palestinian prime minister, but says he will not accept the job without guarantees of international support and an end to Israel's practice of targeted assassination of Palestinian militants.
In Washington, the White House called Tuesday's bombings vicious and said they underscore the fact that fighting terrorism is crucial to peace in the region. But for now the internationally backed road map peace plan is in tatters and there is no indication the cycle of violence is about to stop.