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Suicide bombers kill 15 in Mideast

A suicide bomber blew up an outdoor terrace of a cafe in West Jerusalem.
A suicide bomber blew up an outdoor terrace of a cafe in West Jerusalem.

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CNN's Matthew Chance reports Israel is saying it will not buckle under terror attacks.
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Security and rescue workers attend blast victims outside a Jerusalem cafe.
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CNN's Jerrold Kessel reports on the suicide bombing outside Tel Aviv.
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Tel Aviv (Israel)

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Suicide bombers in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem killed at least 15 people Tuesday and wounded dozens, Israeli police said.

One bombing killed seven people and left bodies strewn about an outdoor terrace of a popular cafe in West Jerusalem, officials said.

"It was a fiery explosion, a great boom. I couldn't hear for a while and I saw people fleeing in all directions," Gideon Cohen, 19, who was working in a nearby restaurant, told Reuters.

About five hours earlier, a suicide bomber set off a powerful explosion at a bus stop near an Israeli army post east of Tel Aviv. Fifteen people were seriously wounded in addition to the eight killed, Israeli police said.

The blast occurred about 6 p.m. (11 a.m. EDT) when soldiers and employees at a nearby hospital gathered at the bus stop -- which also serves as a hitchhiking station -- to head home after work.

"Someone yelled, 'terrorist attack,' and I ran back to try to help the wounded. There was smoke everywhere and people were screaming and crying," Eyal Schneider, 21, who was walking near the bus stop after finishing a training course at Tzrifin army post, told Reuters.

The military wing of the Palestinian militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for both attacks.

The bombings came less than a day after Israeli troops killed Hamas military leader Ahmed Bader and an associate in Hebron in the West Bank. Israel Defense Forces said Bader was responsible for the August 19 suicide bombing of a Jerusalem bus that killed at least 21 people.

Tuesday's bombings were the first suicide attacks since the mid-August bombing, after which Israel began a series of targeted attacks against Hamas leaders.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades all have called off their cease-fires citing Israeli aggression. All three are designated terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department.

Mark Sofer, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, told CNN that Israel would 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."

Chaos and tears

In Jerusalem, emergency services officials said there were at least 50 people injured in the cafe bombing Tuesday night.

Eli Beer, who works for an emergency rescue unit, said the suicide bomber tried but failed to get inside the cafe because of the guard at the door.

"There were a lot of people sitting outside the restaurant, so that's why he decided to blow himself up outside the restaurant," Beer told CNN.

Chaos reigned on the street as ambulances tried to squeeze between crowds of fleeing people. Some people wept in disbelief and others tried to comfort them.

Cafe Hillel is about five miles outside Jerusalem's center and has about a dozen tables on the sidewalk outside. It is in an area of several cafes and is frequented by young people.

After the two terror attacks, dozens of young Palestinians marched through the darkened streets of Gaza, cheering and raising their hands in victory.

Ahmed Qorei, the designated Palestinian Authority prime minister, condemned the attacks, saying they are not helpful.

A woman cries at the scene of a suicide bombing at a cafe in West Jerusalem.
A woman cries at the scene of a suicide bombing at a cafe in West Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in India for an official state visit, was told about the Tel Aviv bombing before he began a dinner with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, according to senior adviser Ra'anan Gissin.

"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."

Sharon cut short his trip to India to return to Israel. (Full story)

Jonathan Peled, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said Israel's contacts with the Palestinians for peace talks would remain suspended.

The White House condemned the attacks "in the strongest possible terms," said press secretary Scott McClellan.

Hamas leader 'killed in gunfight'

With the reported killing of Bader, Israel has killed at least 13 Hamas figures since August 19, and one was left brain dead. But more than 50 Palestinian bystanders have been injured and at least two have been reported killed in the Israeli attacks.

One of the bystanders killed was a 13-year-old boy who the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said died during the Israeli gunfight with Bader and an accomplice in Hebron overnight.

An IDF spokesman said the operation began Monday night, when IDF forces went to the neighborhood to arrest Bader and the other man and ordered residents of the building to evacuate.

"A special task force broke into the first floor of the building to take control and apprehend the terrorists who refused to turn themselves in despite the IDF's repeated calls," the spokesman said.

The two wanted men opened fire on the soldiers, who returned fire and killed them, the spokesman said. Rifles, a pistol and night-vision equipment were found on their bodies, an IDF statement said.

CNN's Matthew Chance in Tel Aviv and Jerrold Kessel in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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