JERUSALEM: At least one person was killed and 15 others were wounded in two separate explosions targeting bus stations in Jerusalem Wednesday, security and medical officials said, with Israel’s public security minister calling them “attacks.”
The first explosion occurred near a bus stop on the edge of the city, where commuters usually crowd waiting for buses. The second went off in Ramot, a neighborhood in the city’s north. Police said one person died from the wounds and Israel’s rescue service Magen David Adom said four people were seriously wounded in the blasts.
The apparent attacks came as Israeli-Palestinian tensions are high, following months of Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank prompted by a spate of deadly attacks against Israelis that killed 19 people. There has been an uptick in recent weeks in Palestinian attacks.
The violence also comes as former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is holding coalition talks after national elections and is likely to form what’s expected to be Israel’s most right-wing government.
Police said their initial findings showed that explosive devices were placed at the two sites. The twin blasts occurred amid the buzz of rush hour traffic and police closed part of a main highway leading out of the city, where the fist explosion went off. Video from shortly after the first blast showed debris strewn along the sidewalk as the wail of ambulances blared.
“It was a crazy explosion. There is damage everywhere here,” Yosef Haim Gabay, a medic who was at the scene when the first blast occurred, told Israeli Army Radio. “I saw people with wounds bleeding all over the place.”
While Palestinians have carried out stabbings, car rammings and shootings in recent years, bombing attacks have become very rare since the end of a Palestinian uprising nearly two decades ago.
The Islamic militant Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and once carried out suicide bombings against Israelis, praised the perpetrators of the attacks, calling it a heroic operation, but stopped short of claiming responsibility.
“The occupation is reaping the price of its crimes and aggression against our people,” Hamas spokesman Abd Al-Latif Al-Qanua said.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, an extremist lawmaker who has called for the death penalty for Palestinian attackers and who is set to become the minister in charge of police under Netanyahu, said the attack gave him impetus to take a tougher stance on Palestinian attackers.
“It’s time to take a hard line against terrorists, it’s time to make order,” he tweeted.
More than 130 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the West Bank and east Jerusalem this year, making 2022 the deadliest year since 2006. The Israeli army says most of the Palestinians killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.
At least five more Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks in recent weeks.