1 dead in Jerusalem blast 23Mar11 March 24, 2011

Ma’an News Agency -  23 March 2011

An Israeli woman critically wounded when a bomb ripped through a bus in Jerusalem on Wednesday has died of her injuries, Israel’s public radio reported, citing medical sources.

The explosion, which ripped through a bus outside Jerusalem’s central bus station was caused a bomb attack, Israel’s internal security minister told journalists.

“The bomb was inside a bag which was left at the bus stop,” Yitzhak Aharonovitch told reporters at the scene.

The blast, which injured 20 people, hit the 174 bus as it stopped to pick up passengers at a stop between the central bus station and the ICC conference center, both of which lie at the western entrance to Jerusalem.

According to a statement from the Israeli military, two buses were hit with the explosion, which was named as a terrorist attack. The statement said one victim was in critical condition.

The explosion occurred shortly after 3:00 p.m. and shook buildings hundreds of meters away, witnesses said.

An AFP correspondent at the scene saw people lying on the floor covered in blood, and many cars and buses with shattered windows.

Sirens echoed through the city as dozens of ambulances and fire engines raced to the scene, with media reports taking of at least three people who were very badly injured.

No group has claimed the bombing, which comes amid a wave of violence in the region.

In Russia, President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, the official PA news agency reported.

Over the past week, Israeli fire has killed ten in Gaza including six civilians, while resistance groups have stepped up projectile fire targeting both military and civilian targets in Israel. One man was lightly injured in the Israeli city of Beersheva by a Grad-style projectile which landed Wednesday afternoon.

In the West Bank, a wave of settler violence was sparked by the Israeli government’s decision to dismantle an illegal outpost. The violence escalated when government officials accused Palestinians of carrying out a grisly murder in a northern West Bank settlement, which saw five members of a family stabbed in their beds.

Over the past month, seven Palestinians have been injured by settler gunfire, two have been stabbed, two have been beaten, seven have been injured by stones, at least six cars have been torched, and dozens of acts of vandalism and harassment have been reported.

Gaza border tension rose significantly after March 16, after more than a week of calm, when an Israeli air strike hit a training base near the former settlement of Nitzarim, killing two Hamas militants and injuring a third.

An army spokesman said at the time that the strike was in response to a projectile that had been fired from Gaza earlier in the day, though there were no claims of fire from Gaza factions, and Israeli media did not report projectile launch.

Hamas retaliated for the deaths, sparking the current back-and-forth projectile launches and strikes.

On March 19 Hamas launched 50 projectiles toward Israel, and Israeli forces retaliated killing two teenagers, and sending artillery fire at fighters in at least two areas of the border zone.

On March 21 Hamas’ armed wing said it will commit to a truce if Israel stops bombarding the Gaza Strip. The offer was ignored and Israeli jets struck sites overnight across the Strip, injuring 18.

Successive projectile launches have caused one civilian injury in Israel, while Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed 10 in the past week, including at least four civilians, who were outside playing soccer when they were hit with fire. An 11-year old and teenager were among the dead. Another 12 people were wounded, including three young children.

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