Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi has decided to cut short an official visit to Washington and return to Israel in light of the developing security situation following the Jerusalem attacks.
Kochavi was in Washington for talks with U.S. security officials at the White House and The Pentagon, to discuss Iran's nuclear program. He is scheduled to return to Israel on Thursday.
A 15-year-old boy was killed and 22 people were wounded in two separate explosions that occurred near bus stops at the entrance to Jerusalem, in the Gival Shaul neighborhood and at the Ramot Junction, on Wednesday morning.
Of those wounded, one is in critical condition and two others are seriously wounded.
Sigal Bar Zvi, the head of the police's operations division, said that the explosive charges were very powerful and of "high quality," and indicate that the attacks were masterminded by an organized cell. The devices, she added, were placed in a bush and behind a wall near the bus stop.
The two bombings stir old, painful memories. In the last several decades, no incidents have been as traumatic for Israelis as the bus bombings during the second intifada in the early 2000s. These were mostly suicide attacks, involving bigger, more lethal explosive devices.
The suicide attacks receded as that intifada waned, and have been mostly replaced with local, more improvised initiatives. The last time Jerusalem experienced a bus bombing was in April 2016, when a Hamas terrorist apparently activated a bomb he was wearing by mistake, wounding 20 bus passengers.
The head of the yeshiva attended by 15-year-old Aryeh Shechopek, who was killed in Wednesday morning’s double bombing in Jerusalem, described his former student as a “charming boy” who was “gentle and tender” and beloved by all.
Speaking with Haaretz following the attack, Rabbi Aharon Kahana of the Harei Yehuda Yeshiva in Beit Meir mourned the loss of the Israeli-Canadian Shechopek, a resident of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. He called him a “genius” who sought to advance in his studies “and was very pleasant to his friends, to whom he was beloved.”
“It’s very hard on his friends,” he said.
Far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, who will likely become Israel's public security minister, called to renew targeted assassinations of members of Palestinian terror groups and demanded the immediate formation of a government following a double terror attack in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning.
Speaking from the scene of one of the bombings, which killed one and wounded 17, the leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party declared that Israel needs to take a hard line against terror, stating that “we must exact a price from terrorism, we must return to the targeted killings, we must impose a curfew on the village from which the terrorists came, we must stop the summer camps in security prisons.”
The double bombing that took place in Jerusalem on Wednesday carries the hallmarks of a relatively skilled terror cell. Someone had to plan the attack in advance: gather intelligence, prepare the bombs, place them in separate bus stops, leave without being caught – and then remotely activate the devices within a short period of time.
This is not the work of a lone terrorist, and it is doubtful this is the work of a new local group like Nablus' Lions Den. It wouldn't come as a surprise if it turns out that it was a cell from East Jerusalem, as of factors such as freedom of movement and familiarity with the sites targeted, which perhaps received assistance and financial aid from elsewhere.
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 occupation is reaping the price of its crimes and aggression against our people,” Hamas spokesman Abd al-Latif al-Qanua said.
Incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem following the attacks, saying that he "sends his and all of Israel's condolences to the family of the 15-year-old yeshiva student killed in the horrific terror attack."
Netanyahu praised the medical staff at Shaare Zedek and added that he is praying for the recovery of all the wounded people: "We are praying for a miracle."
The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem issued a statement saying that it condemns the attacks in the “strongest possible terms” and is currently “closely monitoring the situation.” It also stated that “Terrorism is a dead-end that accomplishes absolutely nothing.”
Lawmakers quarreled at a Knesset session after left-wing MK Ofer Cassif said he sends his condolences "to all the victims of the occupation," following the deadly twin terror attacks in Jerusalem earlier on Wednesday.
"I want to express my sorrow over the ongoing bloodshed. I also want to send my condolences to all the victims of the occupation – Jews and Palestinians alike," Cassif said during a Knesset session.
His speech was interrupted by Likud's Tali Gottlieb and Hanoch Milwidsky who called Cassif "rude" and said "on a day of a terror attack such as this one!"
"Note the symbolism of the age. Both yesterday and today, a Palestinian and a Jewish 16-year-old were murdered, and won't be able to enjoy what the Americans call their sweet 16," Cassif said, referring to Ahmed Shehadeh, a Palestinian boy who was killed in clashes with the Israeli army in Nablus overnight.
After Milwidsky left the session in protest, Cassif continued, saying that "when the occupation will end, the bloodshed will end."
Yesh Atid's Meir Cohen responded to Cassif: "You know that I'm very moderate in my opinions but sometimes you have to hold yourself and think twice… A Jewish boy waits for his ride in the morning. A device is placed next to him, murdering him, and you're here making provocations."
The funeral of Aryeh Shechopek, the 15-year-old Israeli-Canadian yeshiva student killed in Wednesday's attack, will take place in Jerusalem at 3:00 P.M.
Head of the police operations division Sigal Bar Zvi said that the explosive charges were very powerful and of "high quality." "We are witnessing a series of terror attacks, mostly in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and today in Jerusalem. It is clear that there is an intention to harm the public resilience and morale."
Bar Zvi confirmed that the attacks were masterminded by an organized cell and weren't spontaneous. The devices, she added, were placed in a bush and behind a wall near the bus station.
Jerusalem had almost managed to forget the sights seen on Wednesday morning at the site of the terror attacks at the entrance to the capital. Police officers from the bomb squad are crawling around searching for remnants of the bombs, shattered bicycles, glass shards and rocks spread over a large area – and huge traffic jams because of the closing of the entrance to the city.
The big question that hovered over the capital this morning is whether this is just the beginning of a new era with terror attacks we have preferred to forget? Are we at the start of a new wave?
The person who was killed in the Wednesday morning attack at the entrance to Jerusalem is Aryeh Shechopek, a 15-year-old Israeli-Canadian yeshiva student.
The Canadian Embassy in Israel called the attacks "abhorrent."
MK Smotrich at the scene: 'The murderous Arab terror is knocking on our door; we must form a government immediately!'
MK Bezalel Smotrich issued a statement on Wednesday morning, saying: "The murderous Arab terror is knocking on our door; we must form a government immediately! I call on incoming Prime Minister Netanyahu to convene all leaders of the incoming coalition, so we can form a right-wing government that will restore security to the citizens of Israel."
The Israeli killed in the attack was a minor. Eleven of those wounded at the explosion at the entrance to Jerusalem are hospitalized in the Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem in Jerusalem. A 20-year-old man is moderately wounded and hospitalized in Hadassah University Hospital in Mt. Scopus.
Five people who were lightly wounded at the Ramot Junction are hospitalized in light condition.
Internal Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev said in a statement at the scene of the attack in Jerusalem: 'It's a very difficult morning. There's a high probability that there's a connection between the attacks. These are not copycats. I believe that we'll put our hand on all involved.'
Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai added: 'There's no doubt that these are complex attacks. We're currently focused on scanning all the scenes and call on the public to contact the emergency forces in case there's anything out of the ordinary.'
Ambassadors and foreign ministry representatives across Europe condemned the Wednesday morning double bombing in Jerusalem.
Neil Wigan, the UK Ambassador to Israel, said he is "shocked" and pledged to "stand with Israel against terrorism."
Dimiter Tzantchev, the Ambassador of the European Union, said he is "horrified" by the attacks.
The Dutch ambassador said he is "outraged" following the bombing attacks.
The Belgian and Polish embassies said they were "shocked and saddened" by the attacks.
An eyewitness to the attack at the Ramot intersection said: 'There were so many children around us on their way to school. There was a loud explosion and broken glass was all over the place… I know it's like this in Israel, but still it's unthinkable that it actually happened.'
Security camera footage documented the explosion at the Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Shaul.
A source in the police tells Haaretz that the devices were likely controlled remotely and contained nails. Both of the devices were place inside bags.
Far right MK Ben-Gvir, likely to become Internal Security Minister, calls to renew targeted assassinations
In a press statement at the scene of the attack in Jerusalem this morning, MK Itamar Ben-Gvir said: 'Only yesterday Palestinian murderers kidnapped the body of an Israeli citizen who died in a car crash in Jenin. Only recently there were the attacks in Kiryat Arba and Ariel. I send my condolences to the family of the deceased and wish for a quick recovery of the wounded. We have to break this chain. We have to renew targeted assassinations and make them pay. All security prisons must shut down with nobody coming or leaving, and we have to stop all payments to the Palestinian authority as they sponsor terrorism … I won’t say anything about politics this morning only that we must form our government quickly. We can defeat terrorism and restore our governance.'
Israel police said in a statement that one of the people wounded in Jerusalem succumbed to his wounds. Out of the 11 civilians wounded 4 are in a serious condition, 1 in a moderate condition and the rest were lightly wounded. PM Lapid to convene a special security meeting.
Israel's Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai says the kind of attack that took place in Jerusalem has not been seen for years, and that security forces are pursuing the perpetrators. Shabtai asked the public to be alert, and added police are searching for more possible explosives in the city.
Fifteen people were wounded in two separate terror attacks in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning near a bus station at the entrance to the city and at the Ramot Junction. At least two are in critical condition.
Twelve people were wounded in the explosion in a bus station at the entrance to the city, four of them critically, while three were lightly wounded at the Ramot Junction.
Police estimate that the attacks were well-coordinated and are looking for other explosives in the city.
Highway 1 is closed to traffic from the Sakharov interchange heading west. Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai arrived at the scene of the Ramot attack. Internal Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev is also expected to arrive at the scene.