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Middle East
Israeli jets strike Gaza
The strikes come after a bomb rips through a Jerusalem bus, killing one and wounding more than 30 others.
Last Modified: 23 Mar 2011 13:59
A 60-year-old woman died and 30 others were injured in the attack in West Jerusalem [Reuters]

Israeli jets have staged three air strikes over Gaza, hours after a bomb struck a crowded bus stop in West Jerusalem, killing at least one person and wounding 30 in what authorities said was the first major attack in the city in several years.

Palestinian sources said early on Thursday two of the raids targeted the city of Gaza while another was aimed at a tunnel near the Egyptian frontier at Rafah. No casualties were reported.

An Israeli defence spokeswoman confirmed the sorties, saying: "The air force targeted two tunnels at the south of the Gaza Strip and a terrorist target in Gaza."

Jerusalem blast

The strikes came after a bomb ripped through a Jerusalem bus, killing one and wounding more than 30 on Wednesday.

Scores of ambulances converged on the area near the central bus station as rescuers removed bloodied people from the area on stretchers on Wednesday.

Al Jazeera's Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from Jerusalem, said that one person, a 60-year-old woman, died following the explosion.

"There was no immediate claim of responsibility. [...] The normal reaction is for people to blame Palestinian groups when there is an explosion in Jerusalem, but the police are carrying out an investigation and aren't ruling out any possibility," our correspondent said.

Micky Rosenfeld, the foreign press spokesman for the Israel Police, told Al Jazeera that a device in a bag that was left in a phone booth near the bus station exploded when the bus passed.

"This was not a suicide attack," Rosenfeld said.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said that Israel would act aggressively and responsibly after the attack in Jerusalem.

"Israel will act aggressively, responsibly and wisely to preserve the quiet and security that prevailed here over the past two years," Netanyahu said before boarding a plane to Moscow where he will meet Russian leaders.

Yitzhak Aharonovich, Israel''s public security minister, told Channel 2 TV that the bomb was about one to two kilograms and was planted in a small bag on the sidewalk. He said security services were on alert for additional attacks.

Crowded area

The attack occurred near the main entrance to Jerusalem, next to the city''s central bus station, an area that is crowded with travelers and passers-by at all hours of the day.

The blast reverberated throughout Jerusalem and blew out the windows of two crowded buses.

Aharon Franco, Jerusalem''s police chief, said there were no firm leads but authorities were investigating a possible link to a small bombing earlier this month that wounded a garbage collector as he removed the device from a trash can.

Meir Hagid, one of the bus drivers, said he heard a loud explosion as he drove by the site.

"I heard the explosion in the bus stop," he said. He halted his vehicle and people got off.

Samuel Conik, 20, said he ran to the scene when he heard the explosion and saw fire coming out of a phone booth. Nearby was a badly burned man with bloody legs and his skin peeling off, he said.

Police, accompanied by sniffer dogs, broke into cars near the site to search for evidence and possible additional explosives.

Bombings have been rare in Jerusalem in the past several years. Palestinians carried out dozens of bombings in the city at the height of an uprising that began in 2000.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera''s senior political analyst, said "tensions in Israel have been high in the past 48 hours".

Gaza deaths

At least eight Palestinians, including children, were killed in Israeli mortar attacks and airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday.
 
The Israeli military said it was responding to rocket attacks from Gaza. It also confirmed it had fired mortar rounds towards the eastern outskirts of Gaza City on Tuesday, shortly after four rockets hit Israel.

In response to the attack in Jerusalem, Hamas in the Gaza Strip said it was seeking to reverse the recent spike in violence with Israel.

"We stress that our constant position in the government is to protect stability and to work in order to restore the conditions on ground that used to be dominant in previous weeks," Taher Al-Nono, a Hamas spokesman, said.

Islamic Jihad, another armed group which has carried out dozens of attacks, said it was not responsible for the blast in Jerusalem.

But Khader Habib, a spokesman, said the group "applauds all efforts to respond to the crimes committed daily against our people".

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, condemned the attack in Jerusalem.

In a statement on the website of WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, Abbas also reiterated his condemnation to the Israeli operation in Gaza on Tuesday.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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