Thousands of joyful Hamas supporters took to Gaza's streets on Tuesday, throwing sweets in the air and singing songs to celebrate a twin suicide bombing that killed 16 people on Israeli buses.
"Revenge is so sweet," said one activist, hoisting high a poster of Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, a Hamas leader assassinated by Israel four months ago after the last deadly suicide bombing by the militant Islamic group in March. Hamas had vowed "a volcano of death" to avenge Israel's assassination of Rantissi and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin - both killed in the wake of a bombing at Ashdod port - but were hampered by Israeli military raids and arrests.
Militants said they felt satisfied on Tuesday when two suicide bombers from the West Bank city of Hebron reached the nearby Israeli town of Be'er Sheva, where they boarded two buses and blew themselves up almost simultaneously.
Body parts were scattered around by the blasts and the buses left charred and spattered with blood.
The explosions were greeted by hoots of joy, singing and street celebrations by about 20,000 Hamas supporters in Gaza, heartland of the militant group sworn to Israel's destruction.
"It was just the beginning," a Hamas activist shouted over a loudspeaker as activists waved posters of Yassin and Rantissi and sang songs in their praise.
A video tape released by Hamas showed the two bombers - 22-year-old Nassem Jabari and 26-year-old Ahmad Qawasme - posing self-consciously next to rifles and posters of the dead Hamas leaders.
"Yassin and Rantissi can rest in peace," a Hamas spokesman said over a loudspeaker.
The bombings were the first in Israel since March and the deadliest since last October. Many of the passengers had been returning from shopping at an open-air market. Some were students coming home from school at the start of the new term.
Hamas supporters said they were pleased the group's repeated attempts to launch attacks against the Jewish state had finally caused Israeli casualties.
"Hamas men have never let us down," one supporter said.
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