JERUSALEM – Two explosions near bus stops in Jerusalem killed a Canadian-Israeli teenager and injured at least 18 people during rush hour on Wednesday.
The first explosion occurred near a usually crowded bus stop on the outskirts of the city. The second went off about half an hour later in the town of Ramot, north of the city. The police said that one person died from his injuries and at least three others were seriously injured as a result of the explosions.
The death notice identified the victim as Arye Şeçopek, a teenager who was attending a Jewish seminary when the explosion occurred. Lisa Stadelbauer, Canada’s ambassador to Israel, said that Shechopek was also a Canadian citizen. There were conflicting reports about the exact age of Shechopek.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been rising for months, amid nighttime raids in the occupied West Bank sparked by Israel’s deadly attacks on Israelis in the spring that killed 19 people. In recent weeks, there has been an increase in Palestinian attacks.
The violence took place hours after Palestinian militants stormed a West Bank hospital and executed an Israeli citizen who sought treatment there after a car accident, the young man’s father said. This incident can further increase the tension.
Prime Minister of Israel Yair Lapid, who was sent to resign, said that Israel will track down the attackers.
“They can run, they can hide – it’s not going to help them,” he said. “We will punish them within the framework of the law.”
The events come as former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds coalition talks after national elections and is expected to return to power as head of what is expected to be Israel’s most right-wing government ever.
Extremist lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, who calls for the death penalty for Palestinian attackers and is set to become minister in charge of police under Netanyahu, said the attack shows Israel needs to take a tougher stance against Palestinian violence.
“We must demand a price from terrorism,” he said at the site of the first blast. “We have to go back to control Israel, to restore deterrence against terrorism.”
The police, who are looking for the suspected attackers, said that their initial findings indicated that explosive devices filled with shrapnel had been planted in two places. The twin blasts occurred during rush hour and police briefly closed part of the main highway leading out of the city where the first blast occurred. A video taken shortly after the initial explosion shows debris strewn along the sidewalk as emergency vehicles roar. In Ramot, the bus looked like shrapnel marks.
“It was a crazy explosion,” Yosef Haim Gabay, a paramedic who was on the scene when the first explosion occurred, told Israel Army Radio. “I saw wounded people bleeding everywhere.”
Although Palestinians have carried out stabbings, carjackings and shootings in recent years, bombings have become rare since the end of the Palestinian uprising nearly two decades ago.
Dimiter Tzanchev, the US embassy in Jerusalem and EU ambassador to Israel, condemned the violence.
Hamas, the Islamic militant group that runs the Gaza Strip and once carried out kamikaze attacks against Israelis, praised those responsible for the attacks, calling it a heroic operation, but stopped short of claiming responsibility.
Hamas spokesman Abd al-Latif al-Qanua said: “The occupation is paying for its crimes and aggression against our people.”
Israel said it was closing two West Bank crossings to Palestinians near the militant stronghold of Jenin in the West Bank in response to the explosions.
Militants entered a hospital in Jenin on Tuesday and took out an Israeli teenager who was injured in a car accident. The 17-year-old was from Israel’s Druze minority. His father, who was in the hospital room with him, said that the militants separated him from the hospital equipment and took him away while he was still alive. The Israeli military said the young man was already dead when he was taken away.
“It was a terrible thing. It was an inhumane thing,” the teenager’s father, Husam Ferro, told Israeli news site YNet. “He was still alive and they took him in front of my eyes and I couldn’t do anything.”
The leader of the Druze community told YNet that negotiations are underway to return the body to the family. Palestinian militants have carried out kidnappings in the past to extract concessions from Israel. Lapid said that the militants “will pay a heavy price” if the body is not returned.
Palestinian officials either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.
More than 130 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this year, making 2022 the deadliest year since 2006. The Israeli army says that most of the Palestinians killed were militants. However, stone-throwing youths protesting the intervention of the Israeli army and other people who did not participate in the clashes were also killed.
At least eight Israelis have been killed in recent Palestinian attacks.
Palestinian gunmen opened fire on soldiers escorting worshipers in the West Bank city of Nablus overnight, the Israeli army said on Wednesday. The soldiers returned fire, and the Palestinian Health Ministry said a 16-year-old boy was killed in the incident.
Israel captured the West Bank along with East Jerusalem and Gaza in the 1967 Middle East War. Palestinians are seeking territory for their hoped-for independent state.