Two back-to-back blasts went off at bus stops in Jerusalem at the height of morning rush hour Wednesday, killing an Israeli-Canadian teen and injuring at least 26, in what police said were suspected Palestinian attacks.
The first explosion went off near a crowded bus stop on the edge of the city. The second took place 30 minutes later in the settlement of Ramot in the city’s north.
The victim who died in one of the attacks was identified as 16-year-old Aryeh Shechopek, who was on his way to a yeshiva when the blast went off.
Rabbi Aharon Kahana, head of the Harei Yehuda Yeshiva, described his slain student to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz as a “charming boy” and a “genius” who was beloved by all.
An instructor at the Jewish school revealed that Shechopek did not feel well this morning and had been urged by his mother to stay home but ultimately decided to go to school.
Shechopek was laid to rest just hours after the attack in accordance with Jewish tradition.
Shechopek was also a Canadian citizen, according to Canada’s Ambassador to Israel Lisa Stadelbauer.
The violence occurred hours after Palestinian militants stormed a West Bank hospital and carried out an Israeli citizen being treated there, identified as Tiran Feru, 17, according to the boy’s father. That incident could further ratchet up tensions.
“It was something horrendous. It was something that was inhumane,” Husam Ferro, Tiran’s dad, 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 Israeli military claimed the teen, who was from the Druze minority, was already dead when he was taken from the hospital in Jenin.
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 attacks 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, a hardliner 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 crack down 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 in bags at the two sites and detonated remotely using cell phones.
Video from shortly after the initial blast showed debris strewn along the sidewalk as the wail of ambulances blared. A bus in Ramot was pocked 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.”
While Palestinians have carried out stabbings, car rammings and shootings in recent years, bombing attacks have become very rare since the end of a Palestinian uprising nearly two decades ago.
The US Embassy in Jerusalem condemned the violence, as did EU Ambassador to Israel Dimiter Tzantchev.
The Islamic militant Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and once carried out suicide bombings against Israelis, praised the perpetrators of the attacks, calling it a heroic operation, but stopped short of claiming responsibility.
“The Zionist occupation is paying the price today for its crimes and aggression against our people and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and we have warned about this repeatedly,” Hamas spokesman Abd al-Latif al-Qanua said.
Israel said that in response to the blasts, it was closing two West Bank crossings to Palestinians near the West Bank city of Jenin, a militant stronghold.
With Post wires