Tel Aviv – One Israeli was killed and at least 18 others injured after explosions went off at two bus stops in Jerusalem at the height of the morning rush hour, in what Israeli security forces are treating as a combined terror attack.
The blasts come amid a surge in violence between Israelis and Palestinians this year, but there are fears it could represent an escalation and a return to the bombing campaigns of 20 years ago.
The first explosion occurred at around 7.05am local time, near a bus station located at the exit from the city. Half an hour later, another blast went off at a bus station near the Ramot Junction, just over 3.2km away. Both bus stops were packed with students.
Aryeh Chupack, a 16-year-old Canadian yeshiva student who lived in the Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem, was killed in the first attack.
Magen David Adom, Israel's emergency services, said that four of the injured were in a serious condition.
Israeli police said that the bombs at both sites were activated remotely by a cellphone. It said that the explosives were placed in bags and contained nails and pieces of metals to maximise impact.
More than 5 000 Israeli security officers were deployed throughout Jerusalem in the wake of the blasts, including to search other bus stops for any additional planted explosives.
The incident recalled the second intifada of the early 2000s, during which Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group, orchestrated a wave of bombings across Israel.
Israeli Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev said: “This is a complex combined attack in two arenas, which appears to be the result of an organised infrastructure, and not spontaneous act as we have come to know in recent years.” He spoke after visiting the two explosion sites.
The bombings are a departure from the lower tech, more lone wolf-style attacks with which Israel has grappled in recent years. Since last spring, a string of Palestinian stabbings, shootings and car rammings have put Israel on high alert.
In response, the Israeli military has conducted near nightly raids, especially around the West Bank city of Jenin, from where a number of assailants have originated.
On Tuesday night, Palestinian gunmen took the body of Tiran Fero, an 18-year-old Israeli citizen from the Druze town of Daliyat al-Karmel, after he was killed in a car crash and hospitalised in Jenin.
Israel is in talks with the Palestinian Authority to return the body, Daliyat al-Karmel Mayor Rafik Halibi told Kan, Israel's public broadcaster.
Adi Fero, Tiran's uncle told Kan that members of the Islamic Jihad, a militant group with a large presence in Jenin, had kidnapped the body. He said that Fero was a high school student in the 12th grade and not a soldier, as may have been suspected by the gunmen.
Palestinian militants have in the past abducted Israelis to negotiate the release of Palestinian prisoners.
Last week, a Palestinian teenager carried out a combined stabbing and car ramming attack near the West Bank settlement of Ariel, killing three Israelis.
Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu, who is in the midst of coalition negotiations to form the most right-wing government in Israel's history, tweeted yesterday (Wednesday) morning that he was “praying for the peace of the injured in the combined terror attack in Jerusalem this morning and backing the security forces operating in the field”.
Itamar Ben Gvir, a far-right politician who is set to be appointed as Israel's public security minister, tweeted that the bombing “takes us back to the difficult intifada period. It's time to take a hard hand against terrorists, it's time to make order”.
The Washington Post