The bomb which exploded Wednesday afternoon, March 23, near the No. 74 bus stop opposite Binyanei Haooma at Jerusalem's main northern entrance was detonated by remote control. It killed a female tourist and injured 30-40 passers-by and passengers, several seriously plus at least 20 shock victims who later sought hospital treatment.
debkafile's counter-terror sources report that the attack was professionally executed by a team of three to five with local aid from East Jerusalem Palestinians. While the authorities have reassured the city that it was a one-off attack, intelligence and terror experts are certain a terrorist organization activated trained bombers and may do so again.
The 1-2 kilogram device planted in a suitcase was detonated at one of the busiest corners of Jerusalem, where taxis wait to pick up out-of-town arrivals and two buses take on passengers. The site of attack must have been picked in advance, with the bomber waiting in a getaway car nearby to detonate the device as one of the buses was pulling away and drive off to Arab Jerusalem or the West Bank before the police arrived. This method is familiar from the 2003-2006 Palestinian war of terror. The police initially set up road blocks on the highway to Tel Aviv before realizing too late that the bombers had headed east.
That same morning, two Iran-supplied Grad missiles were fired from Gaza and exploded in Beersheba, a town of 200,000, injuring five people and damaging a house, followed by seven mortar shells exploding in the Eshkol farm region closer to the border, an area (of 200,000) still jittery from the 50 mortars fired in a single barrage Saturday. Some were found to contain phosphorus to magnify the burn wounds.
Overnight, two Grad missiles were aimed at the important port towns of Ashkelon (170,000 inhabitants) and Ashdod (200,000).
Wednesday night, after taking 20 assorted missiles and mortar shells during the day, three quarters of a million civilians were advised to stay close to their bomb-proof shelters and safe rooms.
For the earlier debkafile report on Gaza violence click here
Terrorist incidents have occurred in recent weeks in other places too. Earlier this month two Palestinians murdered five members of an Israeli family in their sleep at Itamar on the West Bank. They still have not been apprehended. An explosive device was defused in time in a rubbish bag on a Jerusalem high street.
Beersheba and Ashdod have shut down all schools until the end of the week. Their leaders are demanding action to put an end to the constant assaults on the population, backed by several cabinet ministers who are pushing for a major campaign against Hamas.
Widening circles of criticism are directed against Defense Minister Ehud Barak's sangfroid ("Hamas doesn't want a real escalation any more than we do.") and his influence on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who delayed his trip to Moscow by a few hours for consultations on the Jerusalem bombing.
The attack reminded Jerusalemites of the years of deadly Palestinian terror which struck down hundreds of civilians on buses, cafes, streets, schools, markets, stores and at festive events in every corner of the city. The last two years have been relatively free of these attacks. The last major Palestinian outrage in Jerusalem was the massacre at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva seminary on March 6, 2008. Later, for a while, Palestinians tried using tractors for rampages on city routes.