Jerusalem: A loud explosion near the central bus stand rocked Jerusalem on Wednesday killing a woman and injuring at least 30, police said.
It is being assumed that the blast was a terror attack, which translates to a Palestinian attack when it comes to Israel.
The blast, which police blames upon Palestinian militants, seems to be in response to the major policy shift announced today by Israeli government which said that it would seize and hold Palestinian lands until the "terror attacks stop."
So far, no one has claimed the responsibility for the blast, which police said was caused by a bomb planted inside a suitcase which was placed close to Jerusalem`s main conference hall and central bus terminal.
Scores of ambulances accompanied by police and rescue workers rushed to the site of blast which was near a city conference hall in a Jewish neighborhood of downtown Jerusalem. It was a completely chaotic scenario with many armed police and a lot of horrified onlookers staring in wonder at the shattered windowpanes of the attacked bus and blood stained pavements.
All of the casualties were evacuated to the Hadassah Hospital in Ein Karem.
Denouncing the attack, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s office in the West Bank released a statement saying, “I condemn this terrorist operation in the strongest possible terms, regardless of who was behind it.”
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates called it "a horrific terrorist attack" but said he did not think the situation in Israel was deteriorating.
“Denouncing the attack, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s office in the West Bank released a statement saying, “I condemn this terrorist operation in the strongest possible terms, regardless of who was behind it.”
Israel’s Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch informed that the bomb weighed about one or two kilos.
“It exploded in a small suitcase on the sidewalk next to the bus stop”, he added.
Though Jerusalem had been used to such kind of terror attacks on buses and restaurants during Palestinian uprising that started in 2000, it was only after seven years that such a massive explosion shocked Jerusalem. The last such bombing was witnessed in 2004 in Dimnoa.
The blast coincides with the surging violence along the Israel-Gaza border. Retaliating to the Palestinian militants who had fired two rockets into southern Israel, Israeli warplanes on Wednesday launched fresh air strikes over the eastern Gaza.
Peace talks aimed at ending the decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians broke down last year after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to extend a partial freeze on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank.
Israeli security officials have cautioned that the absence of any peace initiative could spark a new Palestinian uprising. Over 500 Israeli civilians died in 140 Palestinian suicide bomb attacks from 2000 to 2007. More than 4,500 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in the same period.
Earlier on Wednesday, the prime minister warned Hamas over rising violence in Gaza following a barrage of rockets and mortar fire in recent days. Hamas say the attacks were in response to Israeli bombings and killings.
On Tuesday, Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip killed four Palestinian civilians, including three children playing football, and five militants, medical officials said.
Netanyahu has voiced regret for the civilian deaths but said Israel could not ignore attacks on its territory.
"No country would be prepared to absorb protracted missile fire on its cities and civilians, and of course the State of Israel is not prepared to," he told parliament hours before the Jerusalem blast.
"It could be that this matter will entail exchanges of blows, and it may take a certain period of time, but we are very determined to strike at the terrorist elements and deny them the means of attacking our citizens," he said.
Israel launched a three-week war on the impoverished coastal enclave in 2009, killing about 1,400 Palestinians and drawing heavy international censure. Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in a 2007 coup, had mostly held fire since.
After the blast, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postponed his planned departure to Russia to consult with security officials. His office said he would leave later in the day and hold talks with Russian leaders on Thursday.
With agency inputs