TEL AVIV, Israel, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Suicide bombers destroyed two buses in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba Tuesday, killing 15 people and injuring dozens more, police said.
The Palestinian militant group Hamas claimed responsibility, saying it was payback for the assassination of two of its leaders.
Israeli news reports and Magen David Adom said 44 people were injured, 20 seriously, the New York Times reported. A hospital spokesperson, however, said 59 people had been treated.
The buses had set out from the city's central bus station, near the municipality, and exploded about 100 meters (328 feet) from each other.
The attack was the first since the March 14 bombing at the southern port city of Ashdod, which left 10 people dead.
The Palestinian government condemned the attack and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pledged his government will continue to "fight against terror ... with full strength."
The U.S. State Department condemned the attacks as well and called on the Palestinian Authority to take charge of security in the territories.
"Palestinian leaders must take immediate credible steps to end terror and violence," spokesman Richard Boucher said.