Israelis hit Hamas leader's home after suicide bombings

GAZA CITY-- A day after two suicide bombings killed 15 Israelis, the Israeli air force Wednesday struck the Gaza City home of a senior Hamas leader.

A witness said he saw an Israeli F-16 jet drop a bomb on Mahmoud Zahar's house, which was destroyed.

The attack left Mahmoud Zahar moderately wounded, along with at least 20 others -- five critically -- according to a hospital official. Zahar's 20-year-old son, Khaled, and his bodyguard were killed. Sources said Zahar's wife and daughter are in intensive care.

The Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas claimed responsibility for Tuesday's suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, saying it was retaliation for what it said were Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Palestinian parliament speaker Ahmed Qorei on Wednesday said he has accepted the nomination to become Palestinian Authority prime minister. The nomination must be approved by the Palestinian parliament.

The move comes just days after Mahmoud Abbas quit the post, citing "Israel's unwillingness to implement its road map commitments," a lack of sufficient support from the United States and the international community and opposition from the Palestinian Authority.

Qorei condemned Tuesday's suicide attacks, saying they were not helpful.

Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is returning to Israel, cutting short his official state visit to India because of the attacks.

He was told about the first bombing in Tel Aviv before he began a dinner with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, according to senior adviser Ra'anan Gissin, who is traveling with Sharon.

"Terror is a worldwide problem that must be fought without compromise and relentlessly," Gissin quoted Sharon as saying. "There can be no compromise on the fight on terror."

Two suicide bombings in one day

The suicide bombings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem killed 15 Israelis and wounded at least 65 others. The two suicide bombers also died.

They were the first suicide bombings since an August 19 bus bomb in Jerusalem killed 22 people and the bomber.

The first attack Tuesday occurred at a bus stop near an Israeli army base east of Tel Aviv, when soldiers and employees from the hospital were gathering to head home at the end of their workday. Eight Israelis were killed and at least 15 were wounded, Israeli police said.

The second attack came about five hours later, in Jerusalem at the Cafe Hillel in the trendy German Colony area of the city.

Seven people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up near sidewalk tables after the cafe's guard turned the bomber away from the front door. At least 50 people were injured in that attack, ambulance service officials said.

The suicide bombings came after a leader of Hamas' military wing was killed in a raid by the Israeli army Monday night in Hebron.

Mark Sofer, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, told CNN that Israel will not waver in its fight to protect its citizens.

"For the second time in one evening, Israelis have been butchered by barbaric terrorists," he said. "Terrorism is unrelenting, it's true, but more unrelenting is Israel's resolve to protect its citizens."

"If the Palestinian leadership thinks for one instant that it can carry on ignoring the order to dismantle their terrorism from their own midst they could not be more mistaken," he said.