Explosion at Jerusalem Bus Station Kills 1, Hurts 30; Palestinians Blamed

A bomb blast near a bus stop outside Jerusalem’s central station killed one person and injured at least 30.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Palestinians were behind the explosion, and that it was caused by a bomb placed in a bag. Interior Minister Eli Yishai linked the blast to the rising number of rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel from the Gaza Strip and warned that “if the trend continues then, no doubt, we will have to take action.”

“We heard a blast and started running to the central bus station,” Moti Buchenstein, a worker with the Magen David Adom rescue service, said on Army Radio. “All the windows of a bus were blown out and people were lying in pools of blood.”

Today’s explosion comes amid increasing violence between Israel and the Islamic militant Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip. Earlier today, a rocket launched from Gaza injured an Israeli in the southern city of Beersheba. Yesterday, at least seven Palestinians were killed, including several civilians, in what Israel said were attacks aimed at stopping rocket fire.

“We are not looking to escalate but if this continues there is a possibility that this could also lead to a Cast Lead 2,” Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said on Israel Radio. “This isn’t what we would have wanted but it is a possibility that could come out of future developments.”

Cast Lead

Israel in December 2008 launched Operation Cast Lead, a three-week offensive against Hamas in what it said was a bid to stop rocket fire. More than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in that conflict.

The TA-25 Index fell 1 percent to 1,284.04 at the close in Tel Aviv and the shekel weakened 0.2 percent to 3.5380 per dollar. The cost of insuring Israeli debt jumped 16 basis points to 164, the biggest increase since Jan. 28, according to CMA prices for credit-default swaps.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said he “strongly condemns” the attack, “irrespective of who stands behind it.” He issued his remarks in an e-mailed statement.

U.S. President Barack Obama said in a written statement that he condemned “in the strongest possible terms the bombing in Jerusalem today, as well as the rockets and mortars fired from Gaza.”

Islamic Jihad

In Gaza, Islamic Jihad’s military wing said it welcomed the bombing. Abu Ahmad, a spokesman for the group, didn’t say it took responsibility for the attack. He spoke by telephone.

Hamas seized full control of Gaza in 2007, ending a partnership government with Fatah, the main movement within the Palestinian Authority, after winning parliamentary elections the previous year. The Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the European Union and the U.S.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed his departure to Moscow for several hours to meet with the chief of staff and defense minister, his office said in a text message to journalists.

Jerusalem’s police chief, Aharon Franco, said on Channel 2 television that at least 31 people were injured in the blast. One of the injured later died of her wounds, Carmit Orpaz-Yamin, a spokeswoman for Hadassah hospital said today.

Since March 19, at least 70 rockets and mortar shells have been fired from Gaza into Israel, injuring at least three people, the army said.

Earlier today, Netanyahu said his government is determined to protect its citizens from rocket attacks and the situation “may involve an exchange of blows for a certain period of time.” Netanyahu spoke in parliament and his comments were sent in a text message to reporters.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alisa Odenheimer in Jerusalem at aodenheimer@bloomberg.net; Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem at gackerman@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.

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