Israel destroys bomber home after twin attacks
The Israeli army on Wednesday destroyed the West Bank home of one of two Palestinian suicide bombers a day after 16 people were killed in back-to-back bus bombings by the militant Hamas group, the military said.
The action came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the army to hunt down Palestinian militants.
Sharon said the bombings -- the first in five months -- would not deter him from evacuating the Gaza Strip next year, but pledged a steadfast battle against militants who have stepped up attacks ahead of a pullout.
Security sources declined to reveal details of the decisions taken in the late-night security meeting other than to say there would be heightened efforts to kill or arrest militants.
The last time Sharon held such consultations after a suicide bombing in March that killed 10 people at the Ashdod port, the army assassinated Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, two top leaders from Hamas behind the attack.
Hamas, a militant Islamic group sworn to destroy Israel, said the bombings were in revenge for Yassin and Rantissi.
The attacks -- the first in Israel since March and the deadliest since last October -- showed Hamas was not a spent force even after repeated Israeli assassinations of their leaders and the building of a West Bank barrier.
"Revenge is so sweet," said one Hamas activist at a rally in Gaza.
Cheering in the streets of the Gaza Strip after the bombings, thousands of Hamas supporters threw sweets into the air and sang songs after the attack which killed 16 people and wounded 86, many shoppers returning from an open-air market.
BOMBER'S HOME BLOWN UP
On Wednesday morning, soldiers blew up the first floor of a two-storey home where one of the bombers lived in the West Bank city of Hebron, witnesses said.
The family of the second bomber was told to move out their belongings, apparently in preparation for it to be destroyed as well, they added.
The Israeli army confirmed the home had been destroyed. A spokeswoman said the routine response to suicide bombings was a message "that anyone who is party to terrorism will pay a price."
In Tuesday's attack, the bombers boarded buses at the same stop near Beersheba's central bus station and detonated bombs hidden under their clothes within minutes of each other along the same road.
"The bus simply blew up. It just blew up in front of my eyes," said motorist Joey Harel. The blasts gutted the buses and scattered bloodied remains across the street.
Also in response to the bombings, Sharon has called for work to begin in the area bordering on southern Israel on the massive barrier it is building on West Bank land.
Israel says the barrier has prevented scores of attacks. Palestinians denounce it as a grab of the land they seek for statehood. The World Court has ruled the barrier is illegal.
Sharon dismissed calls by rebels in his right-wing camp to abandon his plan for evacuating occupied Gaza and bits of the West Bank to "disengage" from conflict with Palestinians.
"This attack has nothing to do with disengagement but only the murderous nature of Palestinian terrorists," he said.
Before Tuesday's attacks, Sharon had set out a timetable for steps toward pulling 8,000 Jewish settlers out of Gaza. "Disengagement will be carried out. Period," Sharon said.