Suicide bombers have struck in west Jerusalem and outside Tel Aviv, leaving at least 14 victims dead and scores injured.
The Jerusalem bomb hit a cafe on Tuesday evening
Hours after a bomber set off explosives at a crowded bus stop outside Tsrifin army base near Tel Aviv, another bomber detonated a device outside the Hillel cafe in Jerusalem.
"It was a fiery explosion, a great boom. I couldn't hear for
a while and I saw people fleeing in all directions," said witness Gideon
Cohen, who was working in a nearby restaurant.
The Palestinian militant group Hamas applauded the attacks, saying that the "moment has come for Israel to pay for its crimes".
On Tuesday, Israeli troops killed the Hamas commander in the West bank city Hebron.
The Israeli Government accused Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA) of "failing totally" to meet its peace process obligation to control militants.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is cutting short a visit to India, and will return home on Wednesday, a day earlier than planned.
In Washington, the State Department said the attacks underscored the fact that fighting terror was crucial to efforts to make progress in bringing peace to the Middle East.
Ambulances, paramedics and police flooded the bomb scene in the German Colony district of west Jerusalem late on Tuesday, as anxious friends and family crowded the scene, searching for news of the wounded.
Eight people including the bomber are believed to have died and about 30 were wounded, rescue workers and witnesses said.
The bomber is said to have detonated the explosives as a bodyguard tried to prevent him entering the Hillel cafe at about 2320 (2020 GMT).
One eyewitness who was on the blast scene within moments said he had seen "things that just can't be described - there are no words".
"I saw several bodies on the ground," said Gideon
"There was panic. It was crazy. The tables were overturned. There was glass everywhere."
At Tsrifin army base, in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Letsion, a suicide bomber struck at about 1800 local time, killing seven soldiers waiting at a bus stop and injuring around 30.
Corporal Ayal Schneider, 20, was walking towards the bus stop when he heard the blast.
"People were running from the bus stop shouting 'Bomb!
Bomb!'" he said.
A Hamas statement has welcomed both attacks, saying it was "payback time" after Israel narrowly missed killing its founder and spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin at the weekend.
"Israelis should pay the price of their terror action," said the group's political leader, Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, after the army base blast.
News of the bombs caused elation among Hamas supporters
But Yasser Arafat's nominee as Palestinian Prime Minister, Ahmed Qurei, condemned "all acts of killing that target innocents, whether they be Palestinians... or the Israelis who were victims of today's explosion".
He called for both Israel and the PA to "examine the most effective ways to put an end to the killing".
A spokesman for the Israeli prime minister said the PA had failed "totally to live up to its roadmap commitments".
"Now Israel will do what is necessary," said Dore Gold.