Woman killed, dozens hurt in Jerusalem bombing

Bag explodes next to bus stop near Central Bus Station; blast shatters lengthy period of relative quiet; Barkat: Marathon to be run as planned.

Jerusalem bus bomb_311 (r) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Jerusalem bus bomb_311 (r)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A woman was killed and 39 people were wounded on Wednesday afternoon when a bag exploded next to a bus stop across the street from the Jerusalem International Convention Center (Binyanei Ha’uma), near the capital’s western entrance.
It was the first serious terrorist bombing in the city since 2004, and for many residents it brought back terrible memories of the second intifada.
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The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the IDF are investigating whether the attacker was from the West Bank.
Police and paramedics treated a total of 50 people. Three were critically wounded in the explosion itself, and one, a 60-year-old woman believed to be a tourist, succumbed to her wounds later in the afternoon at Hadassah-Ein Kerem Medical Center. Her identity was not released for publication by press time.
Five people were moderately wounded and 23 were lightly hurt from the flying shrapnel of steel balls, nails and screws that littered the ground around the site. The remaining people were treated for shock.
The wounded were also taken to the Hadassah-Mount Scopus, Bikur Cholim and Shaare Zedek hospitals.
Police were looking for the person who left the bag with the bomb, and there were reports that witnesses said they’d be able to identify him.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said the device weighed between one and two kilograms and was packed with shrapnel.
Such bombs are usually detonated by a timer or a cellular phone, meaning the terrorist who brought it to the bus stop likely was not far away when it blew up.
Islamic Jihad vowed on Tuesday to avenge a series of Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip, and Hamas is known to have significant infrastructure in the west Bank.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak returned to Israel Wednesday afternoon from the United States and immediately met with IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz to discuss the bombing.
Defense officials said the small amount of explosives used was a possible indication of the difficulty terrorist groups were encountering in obtaining explosives and manufacturing bombs.
Police said there had been no specific alerts for terrorist attacks in Jerusalem or any other cities prior to the attack, although police had increased patrols around the Purim holiday. Two buses, including a No. 74 bus en route to Har Nof from Har Homa, were damaged in the explosion.
Insp.-Gen. Dudi Cohen said police were investigating whether the bus bombing was connected to a pipe bomb that exploded on Derech Hebron a few weeks ago, seriously wounding a municipal sanitation worker.
“I ask the public to be more aware, to report anything to the police about any suspicious packages or suspicious people. There are enough policemen to be able to get to every area,” said Cohen.
Mayor Nir Barkat was quickly at the scene of the attack.
“The key is to move on with our lives and our normal plans,” he said. “This alone will decrease the motivation of terrorists to carry out attacks. We need to get back to our routine as quickly as possible.”
Barkat said the first annual Jerusalem Marathon would take place as scheduled on Friday and that he was still planning to be one of the runners. He called Wednesday’s incident a “cowardly terrorist attack” but said that in 99 percent of the cases, the terrorists are found.
Hundreds of haredim gathered at the scene of the bombing, hampering police efforts to reopen the road to traffic two hours after the attack.
They chanted “Death to Arabs!” and at one point tried to re-block the road. They refused to evacuate the area for hours following the attack.
On Wednesday evening, top police officials held a debriefing that ended with a decision to put police on the highest state of alert and to send reinforcements to the Jerusalem District and the rocketstricken Southern District.
Police officers will be deployed to busy areas to increase the personal security of the public.
Ongoing evaluations will be held by all security and emergency services.
Wednesday’s meeting was attended by Jerusalem’s police chief, Cmdr. Ilan Franco, as well as Cmdr. Nissim Mor, who heads the Operations Branch, and additional senior officers.
At the same time, an evaluation meeting held in the police’s Central District, headed by Cmdr. Bentsi Sao, concluded with an order to all officers to be on the lookout for suspicious items and individuals.
The police’s 100 emergency telephone service will be beefed up with additional operators.
The public can call the Jerusalem Police at (02) 531-4600 or the Jerusalem Municipality hotline at 106 for more information.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.