Source Link: Stratfor
MARINA PASSOS/AFP/Getty Image
Paramedics gather around the bus attacked March 23 in Jerusalem
An explosive device detonated next to a public bus in downtown Jerusalem on March 23. The explosion occurred on Shazar Street across from the Jerusalem International Convention Center. As many as 25 people were injured, four seriously. Initial reports claimed a suicide bomber was responsible, but those reports have been discounted. An Israeli police officer on the scene told Al Jazeera that a bag presumably containing the device was left next to the bus.
Local reports say the device was in a piece of luggage and placed in a phone booth just outside the bus station and convention center. Other reports claim the device was in a trash can. What is clear is that the device was not on a bus and the attack was not carried out by a suicide bomber. It struck bus No. 74 driving from Givat Shaul to Har Homa, a large settlement in southeast Jerusalem. The device also damaged bus No. 14.
This follows a long pattern of bus bombings in Israel carried out by militant groups but is the first in almost five years. The last two bus bombings in Tel Aviv in 2006 were claimed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ); Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade also claimed one of the attacks. The last major improvised explosive device attack in Israel was in February 2008 in a Dimona shopping mall. Since then, attacks have been mostly limited to rocket and mortar fire from Gaza.
The March 23 attack follows increased mortar and rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod, with one rocket striking as far as the outskirts of Beersheba, some of which were also claimed by PIJ. It also follows a violent attack on Israelis in the West Bank settlement of Itamar. It is still unclear who is responsible for the attack, but the blast indicates a new uptick in violence in Israel as instability spreads across the Middle East.