Hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday openly called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."
"The establishment of the Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world," the president told a conference in Tehran entitled "The World without Zionism."
"The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of a war of destiny. The outcome of hundreds of years of war will be defined in Palestinian land," he said.
"As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map," said Ahmadinejad, referring to Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
His comments were the first time in years that such a high-ranking Iranian official has called for Israel's eradication, even though such slogans are still regularly used at regime rallies.
In Israel, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a market in the coastal city of Hadera yesterday, killing at least four people and wounding dozens, officials said.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing and said the attack was to avenge Israel's killing of a senior leader in the West Bank on Monday, Israel's Channel 10 television said.
The bombing occurred at a sandwich stand in Hadera, a coastal town which has been a frequent target of attacks in a 5-year-old Palestinian uprising.
It was the first bombing inside Israel since Aug. 28, when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to Beersheba's central bus station, wounding 20.
Earlier in the day, Israeli warplanes and artillery pounded an area of northern Gaza yesterday in response to Palestinian militants firing a rocket into Israel's southern town of Sderot.
No casualties were reported in any of the incidents, part of a flare-up of violence this week that has been one of the worst since Israel quit the Gaza Strip last month.
The violence has threatened to unravel an eight-month-old ceasefire and has cast a shadow over hopes of a revival of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking since the Jewish state withdrew from Gaza after 38 years of occupation.
After a lull in violence for much of Tuesday, militants fired two rockets at Israel from Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza yesterday, witnesses said. An Israeli military source said the remains of one rocket were found near a Sderot college.
The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' ruling Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the rocket attack. Abbas had condemned earlier rocket attacks by militants.
About two hours after Sderot was hit, the Israeli military said it had sent warplanes to carry out a bombing raid against a rocket launchpad in northern Gaza.
Also yesterday, Hamas said it will not support a truce with Israel beyond this year if Palestinian parliamentry elections are postponed, a leader of the Islamic militant group suggested in remarks published yesterday.
Abbas reached the ceasefire deal with Hamas and other factions in February, and in exchange promised them political participation, including the elections.