A bomb explosion on a Jerusalem bus has injured 21 people, two of them seriously, according to Israeli security sources.
The explosion, the first in Jerusalem since the end of the second intifada a decade ago, gutted the number 12 Egged bus and set fire to a second passing bus, as well as a car. Most of the injuries occurred when the second bus was caught in the blast from the first.
Despite a recent drop in the violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the past six months, Israel – and Jerusalem in particular – had been on an increased alert before the Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins on Friday.
Jerusalem’s district police commander, Yoram HaLevy, said the explosion was caused by an explosive device placed in the rear part of the bus, which was close to a major road junction in south-west Jerusalem and near Israeli settlements just over the Green Line in the West Bank.
“We are still in the initial stages of the investigation. We’re trying to find out where the explosive device came from and who placed it on the bus,” HaLevy said.
Avraham Rivkind, a trauma specialist at Hadassah Ein Karem hospital, said some of the injuries were in line with injuries from past terrorist bombings in Jerusalem. “There are penetration wounds. We saw in imaging and we pulled out nails and nuts,” he told the Ynet website.
At the scene of the incident on Monday night, army bomb disposal experts were combing through the wreckage of the three burned-out vehicles. One had been reduced to a skeleton of charred metal and another was badly burned with its windows smashed.
Israeli media said a man who was seriously injured and not carrying any identification papers was under investigation on suspicion that he was responsible. The Guardian could not confirm that.
Police initially said they were looking at the possibility that a technical malfunction had caused the explosion on the bus, which had been travelling from Arnon HaNatziv to Mount Herzel when the incident occurred on Moshe Barham street.
But a spokeswoman for Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, said the explosion was a detonation. “It was small, but it was definitely a bomb,” said the spokeswoman, Brachie Sprung.
A spokesman for the Magen David emergency service said: “When we arrived to the scene of the incident we saw people injured, lying on the ground. They were suffering from injuries including burns and bruises and were given primary health care.”
The incident occurred late on Monday afternoon during the city’s rush hour on a main road close to the industrial and shopping district of Talpiyot.
Suicide bombings on buses in Jerusalem and other cities in Israel were a feature of the second intifada, which ended more than 10 years ago. In recent months there has been a fresh wave of Palestinian attacks on Israelis, mostly stabbings and car-rammings.
Speaking from the scene, Mickey Cohen, the head of United Hazolah emergency responders in Jerusalem, told the Israeli news site Haaretz: “When I arrived I saw two buses going up in flames and about 10 casualties. Among them one who was mortally wounded and another in serious condition. We provided initial medical treatment to the wounded.”
The injured were taken to two of the main hospitals in Jerusalem, the Share Zedek and the Hadassah medical centres.