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MAJOR BUS BOMBING IN JERUSALEM: SIGNIFICANT SECURITY SITUATION IN ISRAEL
March 23, 2011
A bomb exploded next to a bus near the center of Jerusalem a short time ago - around 3 p.m. Israel time today, Wednesday (9 a.m. Eastern). According to initial reports, there was one death and another 30 people are wounded – two critically and 15 moderately to seriously.
The bomb exploded across the street from the Jerusalem Convention Center (Binyanei Ha’uma), opposite the city’s Central Bus Station, at a bus stop, hitting Egged city bus #74 and #14. The bomb was reportedly tied to a phone pole and was not operated by a suicide bomber.
The entire entrance to Jerusalem has been sealed and tens of ambulances, rescue workers and security officials are currently on site, treating and evacuating the wounded and looking for additional explosives.
An intern working at JFNA’s Jerusalem office was on the bus that was hit. Initial reports confirm that she is in shock, but unharmed. The intern had left JFNA’s offices a short time before boarding the bus.
Citizens across Israel are speaking to the media and expressing feelings of fear that they are “revisiting an old show.” This is the first bombing in Jerusalem since the end of the second intifada in 2004.
All reports are initial and no details can be confirmed at this stage.
In other news, and in light of the recent escalation of tensions in the Gaza region, JFNA’s Israel office has also prepared a summary of latest significant security developments in the country’s south:
The tension in Israel’s south continued today with an Israeli citizen injured by rocket fire. Rockets are still being fired from the Gaza Strip, igniting IDF counter-attacks. Meanwhile, the IDF remains on high alert, the Israeli government is reviewing options and residents of the surrounding areas have returned to a state of nervousness.
As we hope and pray for the situation to calm down, JFNA, together with our partners, is closely monitoring the situation, both in terms of broader developments as well as needs on the ground.
Sadly, Federations have considerable recent experience in dealing with major crises in Israel, including in the Gaza region. JFNA emergency protocols covering everything from relief efforts, coordination with partners and the government, communications plans and more are ready to be activated in the event that this is needed.
Following months of relative quiet, on March 19, 2011, Hamas forces in Gaza bombarded the Western Negev Region with over 50 rockets. This recent wave of attacks has been stronger than at any time since Operation Cast Lead, two and a half years ago.
Unfortunately, on Wednesday a Grad missile landed in Ashdod, two rockets exploded in residential Beersheba and ten mortars exploded in the Eshkol and Shaar Hanegev regions. No deaths were reported in the Beersheba blast, however, one 56-year-old man was injured moderately in his chest by flying debris. Three others were treated for shock. As a result of the attack, all kindergartens and schools in Beersheba are closed today.
Following one attack, Eshkol region kibbutz resident Elah Koifman said, "People were hysterical. The couple that were hurt are kibbutz residents. We didn't know where it came from. We were like ducks in a shooting gallery."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded to the crisis by strongly condemning the “criminal attacks by Hamas on Israeli citizens,” and warning that “Israel will take all necessary measures to defend its citizens.”
The IDF has thus far responded quickly and is preparing for all scenarios. Over the past few days, the Israeli army has targeted terrorist cells with the use of both air defense and tanks. The IDF thwarted attempts by militants to fire a Grad rocket at Ashkelon on Tuesday evening and is preventing the use of anti-tank weaponry.
While the IDF has been successful at stopping some of the militants’ attempts, there have unfortunately been Palestinian civilian casualties. So far, nine Palestinians have been killed in IDF counter attacks on Gaza. On Tuesday, March 22, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement saying “It is regrettable that Hamas continues to intentionally rain down dozens of rockets on Israeli civilians even as it uses civilians as human shields. While the State of Israel has no intention of bringing about a deterioration of the situation, the IDF will continue to take determined action to defend Israeli citizens."
The situation in Gaza comes at a time of high tensions in the Middle East. This was the first time that Hamas has openly attacked Israel since the end of Operation Cast Lead in 2009. In the past week, tensions have risen as a result of the Fogel family murdered by Palestinian militants and the capture of an Iranian arms supply ship bound for Gaza.
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