Jerusalem bombings: Teenager killed, 19 others injured

Two explosions at busy Jerusalem bus stops • Nails discovered in bombs that were detonated remotely • Police on high alert across the country

 Israeli security forces and medics gather in Jerusalem following an explosion at a bus stop which wounded at least seven people, two of them seriously, on November 23, 2022.  (photo credit: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images)
Israeli security forces and medics gather in Jerusalem following an explosion at a bus stop which wounded at least seven people, two of them seriously, on November 23, 2022.
(photo credit: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images)

At least one person was killed and 19 wounded in two explosions in bus stops at separate entrances to Jerusalem on Wednesday morning, in what police are treating as a coordinated double terror attack.

The fatality was identified as 16-year-old Aryeh Shechopek, who was on his way to a yeshiva in a nearby community when the explosion occurred. The Israeli-Canadian citizen lived in the capital’s Har Nof neighborhood.

Both explosions, one at the entrance to the city near the Central Bus Station and the other in the Ramot neighborhood, occurred at bus stops during rush hour. The explosive devices were said to have been placed in bags left at the stations.

The first explosion, which happened shortly after 7 a.m. in Givat Shaul, injured 15 people, including two critically and another four seriously. 

Magen David Adom said that 12 people were transported to hospitals across the city for medical treatment. Six of the injured people were evacuated to Shaare Tzedek Medical Center, two in critical condition, four in serious condition, and one moderately injured. Five of the moderately wounded were transported to Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem, and one was admitted to Hadassah’s Mount Scopus hospital in moderate condition.

 Police and security personnel at the scene of a terror attack in Jerusalem, on November 23, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Police and security personnel at the scene of a terror attack in Jerusalem, on November 23, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

One of the injured was Naomi Pilichowski, the daughter of Uri Pilichowski, a Jerusalem Post columnist and a well-known American-Israeli educator who works at Nefesh B’Nefesh, and Mitzpe Yericho Mayor Aliza Pilichowski. She was lightly injured in the attack.

Avi Biton, the father of another teenager who was seriously wounded in the attack with shrapnel in his head and stomach, said that his son and a friend were sitting on a bench waiting for a ride to their yeshiva when they suddenly heard a large explosion that threw them in the air. He said that his son saw a suspicious-looking man taking pictures of them before disappearing. 

Witnesses said that they had spotted a bag leaning against a wall shortly before the explosion although these claims have not yet been verified. However, according to N12, the blast was caused by a device set up on a motorcycle next to the bus stop.

The bombs were detonated remotely and were reportedly packed with nails and bolts to maximum casualties. One bus that was near the scene of the first attack was riddled with holes, showing the dispersion of shrapnel.

Following the attack, Road One - the main artery into the capital - was shut to incoming traffic from the direction of Tel Aviv for several hours.

The second explosion near the Ramot Intersection in northern Jerusalem took place several moments after the initial explosion. Three people were lightly injured in that attack.

The second explosive device was most likely set up on the fence, according to an N12 report.

Police, security officials, piece together picture of events

Following an initial investigation at both scenes, police are treating the two explosions as a coordinated joint attack and are looking for additional explosive devices across the city. 

“An initial police investigation taken by Israeli police saboteurs at both scenes shows that different explosive charges were placed at both scenes.  It is suspected that this is a combined terror attack,” the police said in a statement.

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai arrived to the scene of the initial explosion where he was briefed on the attack and then held a situational assessment with Jerusalem District Commander Superintendent Doron Turgeman.

Speaking at the scene, Shabtai said that every bus in Jerusalem will be searched by police officers and all of the bomb-sniffing dogs in Israel will be activated to search for explosive devices. He added that police are investigating whether or not there was more than one terrorist involved in either attack.

"The goal is to prevent the next explosion," he said. "This means bringing all the forces out, not only here, but also to other areas. It could be one terrorist that placed the two explosives, or it could be two. All intelligence services will focus on this issue."

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi decided to cut his ongoing visit to the US short after a situation assessment on Wednesday afternoon, according to the IDF Spokesperson's Unit. Kohavi is expected to land in Israel on Thursday.

“A boy who did nothing wrong to anyone in the world was murdered only because he was Jewish,” said Prime Minister Yair Lapid. “An extensive intelligence effort is now underway that will lead to the discovery of the despicable terrorists, who are behind them and who supplied them with weapons.”

“I want to tell the citizens of Israel that we will get to them,” he continued. “They can run, they can hide, but it won’t help them. Security forces will get to them. If they resist, they will be taken out. If not, we will deal with them to the full extent of the law.”

Canada’s Ambassador to Israel, Lisa Stadelbauer, posted on Twitter that she was “heartbroken” to confirm that Shtsupak was a Canadian citizen in the “reprehensible terror attack.”

“Our sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to others wounded in this attack. Canada continues to condemn all forms of terror,” she wrote.

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides confirmed on Wednesday evening that two US citizens had been injured in the bombing attack. "As we head into Thanksgiving, I am grateful that they will recover.  I pray for a peaceful holiday in the US, Jerusalem, or wherever you may be celebrating," tweeted Nides.

Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion told N12 that there had been no specific warning ahead of the attacks and that they had been “surprised” by it. Nevertheless, Deputy Commissioner Sigal Bar-Tzvi, head of Israel Police's Operations Department, told Kan that there had been “early intelligence” on an attack of this type that would happen in Jerusalem.

“This is an organized squad and not a spontaneous attack,” she said.

Though no group has taken responsibility for the attack, Hamas praised it with its spokesperson Abd al-Latif al-Qanua saying that it was “in response to the occupation and its settlers' crimes against our people and Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz held a situational assessment along with head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Ronen Bar, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Amir Baram, IDF Military Intelligence head Maj.-Gen. Aharon Haliva, Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj.-Gen. Ghasan Alyan and other senior police and defense ministry officials.

“There are many elements in the region that try to destabilize - we work against them all the time, on all fronts. The time of the perpetrators of the attacks, the planners of the attacks, and the financiers of the attacks is limited,” Gantz warned following a situational assessment at the IDF's Central Command.

“We have an excellent army, police and security service - who will make sure to get their hands on them, and will continue to thwart terrorism. Anywhere, anytime and by any means,” he continued, adding that security forces have been deployed and that intelligence gathering has been increased.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid conducted a situational assessment at noon in the Defense Ministry Headquarters at the Kirya in Tel Aviv. He will be joined by Gantz, Shabtai, Bar, Baram, Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev, National Security Agency head Eyal Haluta and other senior officials.

Following the assessment, Lapid briefed prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu on the meeting.

 Police operate at the scene of a Jerusalem terror attack after two bombs exploded at the bus stops near the entrance to the city, November 23, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Police operate at the scene of a Jerusalem terror attack after two bombs exploded at the bus stops near the entrance to the city, November 23, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Reactions to the Jerusalem bombings

“A boy who did nothing wrong to anyone in the world was murdered only because he was Jewish,” said Prime Minister Yair Lapid. “An extensive intelligence effort is now underway that will lead to the discovery of the despicable terrorists, who are behind them and who supplied them with weapons.”

"I want to say from here to the citizens of Israel, we will reach them. They can run, they can hide, it won't help them. The security forces will reach them. If they resist they will be thwarted. If not, we will exhaust the full severity of the law with them."

Netanyahu visited several of the wounded people in Shaare Zedek Medical Center on Wednesday afternoon.

Addressing the press at the end of his visit he said: "I think I am speaking for most of the people of Israel, who are all praying for the full recovery of the wounded. We are in a fight against ruthless terror, which is on the rise again, and we will do everything we can to return a full sense of security to all Israelis."

 Likud party chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media at the Shaare Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem on November 23, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Likud party chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media at the Shaare Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem on November 23, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

President Isaac Herzog attended a ceremony for the Ethiopian Jewish holiday of Sigd on Wednesday in Armon Hanatziv, Jerusalem, and addressed the terror attack that had occurred earlier in the day.

"I want to address the difficult day, a day full of anxiety, worry and pain, that is felt around Israel and Jerusalem. This terror attack will not weaken us, will not make us doubt our belief in our ways, or in our right to a peaceful and safe life in Israel, including in our eternal capital of Jerusalem," he said.

"We will continue to be strong against hateful and despicable terrorists, and we will prove that there is no power in the world that can break the Israeli spirit. In the name of the Israeli people, I send my condolences to the families of the injured and I pray for the health of the injured people.

"I send my support to the security forces, which I fully trust to operate with all of their might to defeat the terror in general, and those in charge of the attack today."

 President Isaac Herzog attends a Sigd Holiday ceremony in Jerusalem, November 23, 2022. (credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO) President Isaac Herzog attends a Sigd Holiday ceremony in Jerusalem, November 23, 2022. (credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)

Along with an outpouring of responses to the attack from foreign diplomats, the US Office of Palestinian Affairs tweeted to denounce the violence that occurred. 

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this morning’s terrorist attacks on public locations in Jerusalem, and offer sincere condolences to the victims and their loved ones. We are closely monitoring the situation. Terrorism is a dead end that accomplishes absolutely nothing," they wrote, in both English and Arabic.

Similarly, US ambassador to Israel Tom Nides sent a message via Twitter expressing anger over the attack and extending his condolences to the families of those affected.

"Appalled by the cowardly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem today that targeted innocent civilians, including children. My heart breaks for the families of those who were harmed."

Israel's battle with Palestinian terrorism

In recent months, Israel has been experiencing a wave of terrorism, although the attacks until now have mostly been in the West Bank and were carried out by Palestinians using either assault rifles or knives. Last week, three Israelis were killed in a stabbing rampage at the entrance to the settlement of Ariel in the Shomron region of the West Bank. 

Also last week, a car exploded close to an IDF post near the settlement of Mevo Dotan in the West Bank. The car, which had three gas cylinders and wires inside, is believed to have exploded in a botched car bombing.

The Shin Bet said that it had thwarted over 330 significant attacks in the past year, including 34 bombings and two suicide bombings.

Operation Break the Wave was launched in April by the IDF to crack down on Palestinian terror attacks after 20 people were killed in Israel during terror attacks. Since the beginning of the operation, another 14 civilians have been killed, along with four members of the security forces. 

Over 2,000 Palestinians have been arrested by security forces and over 130 killed by Israeli fire during violent riots and while attempting to carry out terror attacks.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.