One Dead, Dozens Injured in Jerusalem Bus Explosion

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:37 pm by Steve

Things are really heating up in the Middle East. Keep watching.

JERUSALEM – A bomb struck a crowded bus stop in central Jerusalem Wednesday, killing one woman and wounding more than 20 other people in what authorities said was the first major Palestinian militant attack in the city in several years.

The bombing brought back memories of the second Palestinian uprising last decade, a period in which hundreds of Israelis were killed by suicide bombings in Jerusalem and other major cities, and thousands of Palestinians died in Israeli military operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but authorities blamed Palestinian militants and threatened harsh retaliation. The attack came against the backdrop of a rising wave of violence that has threatened a lengthy period of relative calm, and made hopes for a negotiated peace ever more distant. The moderate Palestinian government in the West Bank condemned the violence.

The 3 p.m. bombing occurred near the main entrance to Jerusalem, next to the city’s central bus station and main convention center, an area that is crowded with travelers and passers-by. The bomb went off next to a food stand called, in a Hebrew play on words, “a blast of a kiosk.” The owner said the name was to remember an earlier attack at the same site.

The blast reverberated throughout Jerusalem and blew out the windows of two crowded buses. Rescuers removed bloodied people from the area on stretchers, as sirens from speeding ambulances wailed in the background.

Authorities said a 60-year-old woman was killed, while two dozen other people were hurt, several critically.

Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country will react “aggressively, responsibly and wisely” to the attack.

Netanyahu said he spent the evening huddled with top security officials to discuss the situation.

Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, rushed to the scene and urged people to return to their routines. “We will show the terrorists we are not terrorized,” he said.

Tensions have been rising in recent weeks, particularly along Israel’s southern border with the Gaza Strip. Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, has been firing rockets and mortar shells across the border, and Israel retaliating with airstrikes and other attacks.

In fresh violence on Wednesday, two rockets landed in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, moderately wounding one man, and mortar shells struck southern Israel.

Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak threatened retaliation against Hamas.

“We will not tolerate the harming of Israeli citizens, not in the south and not in Jerusalem,” Barak said. “Hamas is responsible for the firing of rockets toward Beersheba today and this responsibility has a price.”

Earlier this month, five members of a Jewish settler family were stabbed to death in their sleep at their West Bank home. And on Tuesday, an errant Israeli strike meant for Palestinian militants killed four members of a Palestinian family in Gaza.

Adding to the tensions, peace efforts between the Israelis and the Western-backed Palestinian government have been stalled since September.

The attack drew international condemnations as well. In Washington, President Barack Obama offered condolences and called on those responsible to end such attacks. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called it “unacceptable.”

Egypt, however, warned Israel against any military operation in the Gaza Strip.

“Escalation of violence will not serve the interest of any party and will not serve peace or stability,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Menha Bakhoum said in a statement.

Jerusalem’s police chief, Aharon Franco, said the bomb was about four pounds (one to two kilograms) and was planted in a small bag on the sidewalk. He said security services were on alert for additional attacks.

He said authorities had no firm leads but were investigating a possible link to a small bombing earlier this month that wounded a garbage collector as he removed the device from a trash can.

“I saw kids crying on the street, lying in blood on the side of the road,” said one man who witnessed the blast. Crying on the telephone, he frantically tried to reach his daughter, calming down a bit when he found out she was safe. The man, trembling in shock, refused to give his name.

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