A suicide bomber has killed himself and at least 11 others in an attack on a bus in Jerusalem on Thursday morning. The blast tore through a crowded commuter bus in West Jerusalem as it made its way toward the center of the city during the height of the morning rush hour. Jerusalem police said the bomb went off near the front of the bus just as it was approaching a bus stop.
Ha'aretz newspaper said a 13-year-old-girl was among the dead. Emergency medical personnel said a number of other children were among the wounded they were treating. Children routinely take public transportation to and from school in Jerusalem. The explosion was on Mexico Street in a neighborhood not far from the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, Jerusalem's largest.
Reaction to the blast came from Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner who place the blame squarely on the Palestinian leadership. "One again innocent Israelis, men, women and children, were massacred today in Jerusalem by Palestinian terrorists. It is clear today that the Palestinian authority not only isn't doing anything to stop terrorist activity but actually is encouraging it," he says. "The Palestinian Authority bears a heavy responsibility. No country can tolerate that kind of action and Israel will not tolerate that kind of action. We will do whatever it takes to defend ourselve[s] and defend ourselves we will."
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened his security cabinet for an emergency session later Thursday to discuss a response to the bombing.
The Thursday morning bombing was the first in Israel since November 4th when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a shopping mall in the central part of the country. It was the first in Jerusalem in the past four months. Police said they had no previous warning that Palestinian extremist groups might be planning an attack on the city but said security forces had been on high alert.
Israel has reoccupied most Palestinian cities in the West Bank in an effort to stop the bombings and other attacks on Israeli civilians.