Police forensic experts work at the scene after an explosion tore through a bus in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One day after a bomb incinerated two Egged buses in Jerusalem wounding 21 people Monday, a police gag order amid an ongoing joint investigation with the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has meant few details have emerged about the explosion.
A No. 12 bus en route from Armon Hanatziv to the Malha Mall erupted into flames during rush hour traffic on Moshe Bar’am Street, a major thoroughfare in Talpiot’s industrial area in the southern portion of the capital, resulting in an inferno that engulfed a second empty Egged bus and a car.
Despite the powerful impact of the blast, no one was killed.
A forensics team found the remains of a bomb at the site.
Scene of Jerusalem bus explosion
The victims, one of whom remains in critical condition, were treated at the scene by Magen David Adom and United Hatzalah paramedics and rushed to Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus, as well as Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
According to hospital officials, one male victim, who lost multiple limbs in the explosion, remains in critical condition, two victims remain in serious condition, five are in moderate condition, and the remaining 13 have either been discharged or are in light condition.
Police would not confirm multiple reports that the man in critical condition was a suicide bomber.
The bus driver, Moshe Levi, told Israel Hayom that there was nothing unusual in the minutes preceding the explosion.
“Everything was fine,” he said. “I was in a traffic jam on Moshe Bar’am Street, and then suddenly a large explosion rocked the back of the bus. I opened the doors and shouted at everyone to run away.”
Levi, who was not physically wounded, was treated at Shaare Zedek Medical Center for shock before being discharged.
Rachel Dadon, who was on the bus with her 15-year-old daughter Eden, said they heard a loud explosion before the bus’s windows shattered and the inside was enveloped in smoke and fire.
“I looked for my daughter and I saw her burnt,” said the elder Dadon, who sustained light wounds. “I pray that she makes it through,” she added of her daughter, who remains hospitalized with serious wounds.
On Tuesday, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that although all indications point to a terrorist attack, police are still gathering evidence and investigating the series of events that led to the explosion.
“The police and Shin Bet investigation is continuing, and we’re looking into a number of directions, but our main emphasis is to understand what took place, and whether the bomb was planted on the bus or carried by a passenger,” said Rosenfeld.
“We’re continuing to interview witnesses, and continue to implement heightened security throughout Jerusalem, with extra units deployed to public areas across the city to prevent further attacks.”
Comparing Monday’s explosion to the many bombs that were discharged on buses during the second intifada, former Shin Bet head Avi Dichter said during an interview with Army Radio that “the explosive charge was much lower” than those used between the 2000- 2005 uprising.
Adding confusion to the investigation is that no terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack, leading police to believe the suspect may have acted independently. Such a scenario fits the profile of the six-month terrorism wave, primarily carried out by lone assailants.
Still, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, respectively, praised the attack as a “welcome development” and “natural response to the crimes of the Zionist occupation.”
Further exacerbating tensions with incitement, Hamas reinforced the patently false allegation that the violence is due to Israel’s purported plans to take over al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount.
In the meantime, the Jerusalem Municipality said on Tuesday that this week’s attack will not alter plans for the tens of thousands of Jewish visitors expected to visit the Old City during Passover, which begins Friday night.
Rosenfeld added that security assessments for the holiday are continuing, and will be far-reaching to ensure the safety of all visitors to the capital.JNS contributed to this report. •