August 31, 2004
Bombs explode on a pair of buses 100 yards apart along Beersheba’s main street, Ranger Boulevard, shortly after leaving the central bus station. Sixteen Israelis, one as young as 3 years old, are killed, and 100 others are injured. The death toll might have been worse, but the driver of the second bus manages to get most of the passengers out before its explosion after the blast on the first bus.
Still, the attack is the deadliest since a suicide bombing at a Haifa restaurant killed 21 people in October 2003. Hamas in Hebron claims credit for the Second Intifada suicide bombings, which shatter a five-month period of relative calm. Earlier the same day, Israeli troops stopped a Palestinian trying to enter Israel from the Gaza Strip with explosives sewn into his underwear.
Hamas says the bombings are retaliation for the killings in the spring of Hamas’ founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon vows to fight Palestinian terrorism “with all our forces,” while Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom blames Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, who “has brought nothing but terror and evil since his return to the territories.” Other Israeli leaders say the attack emphasizes the importance of completing the separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank.
The United States and the European Union condemn the bombings.