A bomb exploded on an Israeli bus in northern Jerusalem during rush hour this morning, killing as many as five people and injuring at least 70 others, police at the scene said.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing human body parts strewn along a main street that connects the northern suburbs with downtown Jerusalem. The wail of ambulance sirens could be heard all over town.
Liora Sion, 26, was walking to the bus when the explosion happened. “At first, it was very quiet, and then people started to cry and run into the street,” she said.
“There was a man lying on the ground saying, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.’ I saw a spine in the middle of the road.”
Sion said she gave water to the victims who were still alive until ambulances arrived on the scene. She said there was fire and “there was blood all over my legs.”
The explosion occurred on a street lined with a high school on one side and apartment buildings on the other. People were leaning out of balconies in the apartment complex, screaming and crying throughout the day.
Crowds that gathered later were about half composed of haredim, members of a devout Jewish sect. The crowd started yelling, “Rabin out! Rabin out!"--referring to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who has been promoting the cause of peace with the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
When Police Minister Moshe Shahal arrived on the scene, he was booed and chased, and security guards surrounded him.
One young man in a yarmulke and with a cellular phone shouted, “Bastards, they should all be killed,” meaning the politicians.
It was not clear whether there were two separate bombs or one bomb that damaged a second bus with its reverberation. Both buses caught fire and burned.
Police spokesman Eric Bar Chen said the dead could include the suspected bomber, and he said police expected the death toll to go higher.
The explosion occurred just one day after Israel lifted a 10-day closure of the Gaza Strip that security officials said was intended to prevent a bombing attack by Islamic militants.
Fundamentalists have vowed to wreck Israel’s 1993 peace accord with the Palestine Liberation Organization and have carried out a campaign of bus bombings throughout Israel that has killed scores.
Israel and the Palestinians resumed negotiations Sunday on the second phase of their peace accord, which is meant to extend Palestinian self-rule throughout the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Israeli security officials said they had specific intelligence that Hamas, one of the Islamic militant movements active in the West Bank and Gaza, was planning to carry out an attack aimed at thwarting the signing of the second-phase peace accord.
On Friday, Palestinian police in Gaza arrested three members of Hamas who both Israeli security sources and the Palestinian police said were suspected of planning a bombing attack. After those arrests, Israel lifted the closure on Gaza and allowed thousands of Palestinians to return to their jobs in Israel.