Twin blasts shake Jerusalem, killing teen and wounding 18
Two blasts went off near bus stops in Jerusalem at the height of the morning rush hour on Wednesday, killing a Canadian teenager and injuring at least 18 people, in what police said were suspected attacks by Palestinians.
The first explosion occurred near a typically crowded bus stop on the edge of the city. The second went off about half an hour later in Ramot, a settlement in the city’s north. Police said that one person had died from their wounds, and at least three people were seriously wounded in the blasts.
The victim was identified as 15year-old Aryeh Shechopek, who was heading to a Jewish seminary when the blast went off, as according to a notice announcing his death. Shechopek was a Canadian citizen, as according to Canada’s Ambassador to Israel, Lisa Stadelbauer.
Tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinians have been surging for months, amid nightly Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank as prompted by a spate of deadly attacks against Israelis that had killed 19 people in the spring. There has been an uptick in recent weeks in Palestinian attacks.
The violence occurred hours after Palestinian militants had stormed a West Bank hospital and had carried out an Israeli citizen seeking treatment there after having been involved in a car accident, as according to the young man’s father. That incident could further ratchet up tensions.
The developments took place as former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is holding coalition talks after national elections and is likely to return to power as head of what’s expected to be Israel’s most right-wing government ever.
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 that the attack meant that Israel needed to take a tougher stance on Palestinian violence.
“We must exact a price from terror”, he said at the scene of the first explosion. “We must return to be in control of Israel, to restore deterrence against terror.”
Police, who were searching for the suspected attackers, said that their initial findings showed that shrapnel-laden explosive devices were placed at the two sites. The twin blasts occurred amidst the buzz of rush hour traffic, and the police had briefly closed off part of a main highway leading out of the city, where the first explosion had gone off. Video from shortly after the initial blast showed debris strewn along the sidewalk as the wail of ambulances blared. A bus in Ramot was pocked with what looked like shrapnel marks.
“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 which took place nearly two decades ago.
The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem condemned the violence, as did EU Ambassador to Israel, Dimiter Tzantchev.
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”, said Hamas spokesman, Abd al-Latif al-Qanua.
Israel said that in response to the blasts, it was closing two West Bank crossings to Palestinians near the West Bank city of Jenin, a militant stronghold.
In Jenin late on Tuesday, militants had entered a hospital and removed the Israeli teen wounded in a car accident. The young man, 17 years old, was from Israel’s Druze minority. His father, who was in the hospital room with him, said that the militants had disconnected him from hospital equipment and took him while he was still alive. The Israeli military said that the young man was already dead when he was taken.
“It was something horrendous. It was something that was inhumane”, Husam Ferro, the teen’s father, told Israeli news site YNet. “He was still alive and they took him in front of my eyes and I couldn’t do anything.”
A Druze community leader told YNet that talks were underway on the body’s return to the family. Palestinian militants have carried out kidnappings in the past in order to seek concessions from Israel.
Palestinian officials either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.
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 that most of the Palestinians killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting Israeli army incursions, together with others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.
At least eight Israelis have been killed in the most recent wave of Palestinian attacks.
The Israeli military said on Wednesday that Palestinian gunmen had opened fire on forces escorting worshippers to a flashpoint shrine in the West Bank city of Nablus overnight. The troops had fired back, and the Palestinian Health Ministry said that a 16-year-old had been killed in the incident.
Israel had captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with east Jerusalem and Gaza. The Palestinians seek the territories for their hoped-for independent state.