Double explosions rock Jerusalem, killing 1 and injuring several

JERUSALEM– On Wednesday, at the height of the morning rush hour, two explosions went off near bus stops in Jerusalem, killing one person and injuring at least 18 in what police say were suspected attacks by Palestinians.

The first blast happened near a bus stop on the outskirts of town, which is usually crowded with commuters waiting for buses. The second left about half an hour later in Ramot, a settlement north of the city. Police said one person died from their wounds and at least three were seriously injured in the blasts.

According to Israeli media, the person killed was 16 years old.

The alleged attacks came as Israeli-Palestinian tensions ran high after months of Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank were sparked by a spate of deadly attacks on Israelis that killed 19 people. There has been an upsurge in Palestinian attacks in recent weeks.

The violence also comes as former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds coalition talks after national elections and is likely to return to power as head of what is likely Israel’s most right-wing government of all time.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, an extremist lawmaker who has called for the death penalty for Palestinian attackers and is set to become police minister under Netanyahu, said the attack means Israel must take a tougher stance on Palestinian violence.

“We must demand a price from terror,” he said at the site of the first explosion. “We must return to take control of Israel and restore the deterrence to terror.”

Police searching for the suspected attackers said their initial findings showed shrapnel-laden explosive devices were planted at the two locations. The twin blasts happened amid the hustle and bustle of rush-hour traffic, and police briefly closed part of a main road leading out of town where the first blast went off. Video shortly after the initial blast showed debris strewn on the sidewalk while ambulances howled. A bus in Ramot was covered in what looked like shrapnel.

“It was a crazy explosion. There is damage everywhere here,” Yosef Haim Gabay, a medic who was at the scene of the first blast, told Israel Army Radio. “I’ve seen people with wounds bleeding everywhere.”

While Palestinians have engaged in stabbings, car rammings and shootings in recent years, bombings have become very rare since the end of a Palestinian uprising almost two decades ago.

The US embassy in Jerusalem condemned the violence, as did the EU ambassador to Israel, Dimiter Tzantchev.

The militant Islamic Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and once carried out suicide bombings against Israelis, praised the perpetrators of the attacks and called it a heroic operation, but does not admit responsibility.

“The occupation is reaping the rewards of their crimes and aggression against our people,” Hamas spokesman Abd al-Latif al-Qanua said.

Israel said it was closing two West Bank crossings to Palestinians near the West Bank city of Jenin, a militant stronghold, in response to the blasts.

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 were militants. But stone-throwing youth protesting the military crackdown and others not involved in the clashes were also killed.

At least seven other Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks in recent weeks.

The Israeli military said on Wednesday that Palestinian gunmen opened fire on troops escorting worshipers to a hotspot shrine in the West Bank city of Nablus overnight. Troops fired back and the Palestinian Health Ministry said a 16-year-old was killed in the incident.

Israel conquered the West Bank, along with East Jerusalem and Gaza, in the 1967 Middle East War. The Palestinians are looking for the areas for their hoped-for independent state.

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Goldenberg reported from Tel Aviv, Israel. Associated Press writer Isaac Scharf contributed to this report.

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