Two blasts went off near bus stops in Jerusalem at the height of morning rush hour on Wednesday, killing a Canadian-Israeli teenager and injuring at least 18, in what police said were suspected attacks by Palestinians.
The first explosion occurred near a typically crowded bus stop on the edge of the city. The second went off about half an hour later in Ramot, a settlement in the city’s north. Police said one person died from their wounds and at least three were seriously wounded in the blasts.
The victim was identified as Aryeh Shechopek, a teenager who was heading to a Jewish seminary when the blast went off, according to a notice announcing his death. Shechopek was also a Canadian citizen, according to Canada’s Ambassador to Israel Lisa Stadelbauer. There were conflicting reports over Shechopek’s exact age.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been surging for months, amid nightly Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank prompted by a spate of deadly attacks against Israelis that killed 19 people in the spring. There has been an uptick in recent weeks in Palestinian attacks.
The violence occurred hours after Palestinian militants stormed a West Bank hospital and carried out an Israeli citizen seeking treatment there after a car accident, according to the young man’s father. That incident could further ratchet up tensions.
Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Israel would track down the attackers.
“They can run, they can hide — it won’t help them,” he said in a statement. “We will punish them to the fullest extent of the law.”
The developments took place as former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is holding coalition talks after national elections and is likely to return to power as head of what’s expected to be Israel’s most right-wing government ever.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, an extremist lawmaker who has called for the death penalty for Palestinian attackers and who is set to become the minister in charge of police under Netanyahu, said the attack meant Israel needed to take a tougher stance on Palestinian violence.
“We must exact a price from terror,” he said at the scene of the first explosion. “We must return to be in control of Israel, to restore deterrence against terror.”
Police, who were searching for the suspected attackers, said their initial findings showed that shrapnel-laden explosive devices were placed at the two sites. The twin blasts occurred amid the buzz of rush hour traffic and police briefly closed part of a main highway leading out of the city, where the first explosion went off. Video from shortly after the initial blast showed debris strewn along the sidewalk as the wail of ambulances blared. A bus in Ramot was packed with what looked like shrapnel marks.
“It was a crazy explosion,” Yosef Haim Gabay, a medic who was at the scene when the first blast occurred, told Israeli Army Radio. “I saw people with wounds bleeding all over the place.”