JERUSALEM, April 21 – Israel said on Thursday that an attack on a Jerusalem bus this week that wounded 15 people was a suicide bombing, the first such attack in years.
Suicide bombings on Israeli buses were a hallmark of the Palestinian revolt of 2000-2005 but have been rare since. A spate of stabbings, car-rammings and gun attacks by Palestinian militants since October have put Israelis on the alert for an escalation.
The internal security agency, Shin Bet, said Monday’s attack was linked to Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip.
Israeli security forces arrested several suspected accomplices of the bomber, Abdel-Hamid Abu Srour, in the occupied West Bank in the hours after the incident and they are being questioned by the Shin Bet, the agency said.
The pro-Hamas Palestinian Information Centre said Srour, 19, was a member of the Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam brigades, the Hamas’ armed wing.
Srour, who lived in the Ayda refugee camp near Bethlehem in the West Bank, suffered severe wounds in the explosion that wrecked the bus and died in an Israeli hospital on Wednesday. Most of the casualties have been discharged from hospital.
In the last six months, Palestinian attacks have killed 28 Israelis and two visiting U.S. citizens. Israeli forces have killed at least 191 Palestinians, 130 of whom Israel says were assailants. Many others were shot dead in clashes and protests.
Factors driving the violence include Palestinian frustration over stalled statehood negotiations and the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, increased Jewish access to a disputed Jerusalem shrine and Islamist-led calls for Israel’s destruction.