Two explosions shook Jerusalem early Wednesday, killing a teenager and injuring 18 others in a suspected “combined terror attack,” authorities said.
The first explosion occurred at a bus station near the entrance to Jerusalem at 7:06 a.m., injuring 12 people, including the teen who later died, according to Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s Red Cross affiliate. Three of the wounded were in serious condition.
A second explosion was reported almost half an hour later at the city’s Ramot junction, at 7:30 a.m., police said. Three people were evacuated with minor injuries, while four were treated for “stress symptoms” according to MDA. Two Americans were among those injured, US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said on Twitter.
Initial investigations indicated that explosive devices were placed at both blast sites and a search is underway for suspects, the police spokesperson said.
An Israeli Police spokesperson said the devices used in Wednesday’s attacks were very powerful and most likely detonated remotely by a “well-organized cell.” One device was hidden behind a wall and the other behind a bush, the spokesperson added.
“The terrorists knew the area well,” the spokesperson said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the incident.
Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid said after participating in a situation assessment with security officials that the incident was “different from what we have seen in recent years.”
“An extensive intelligence effort is now underway that will lead us to find these heinous terrorists, those behind them, and those who provided them with weapons,” Lapid said. “We will find them. They can run, they can hide — it won’t help them; the security forces will reach them. If they resist, they will be eliminated. If not, we will punish them to the fullest extent of the law.”
The individual killed was a 15-year-old named Aryeh Shechopek, authorities said. Shechopek was a student at a yeshiva, a Jewish religious school, and lived in the Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem, the family said. Shechopek also held Canadian citizenship, Israeli and Canadian authorities said. Israeli emergency services had earlier reported that Shechopek was 16 years old.
Lapid offered his condolences for the family, calling Shechopek “a boy who never wronged anyone in the world.”
“He was murdered simply because he was Jewish,” he said.
The attack brings the number of people killed on the Israeli side of the conflict to at least 29 this year. This year has also been the deadliest for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2015. At least 146 Palestinian civilians and militants have been killed there in 2022, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
At the site of the first blast, images showed debris strewn on the ground and a parked bus with holes pierced in its windscreen. Metal railings surrounding the bus stop were also damaged and the area was cordoned off.
Two paramedics from MDA said when they arrived at the bus station they found two seriously injured people lying on the ground.
“We were at the MDA station by the entrance to the city when we heard a large explosion,” they said. “We immediately headed to the scene in large numbers, including ambulances, MICUs (mobile intensive care units) and medicycles.”
“Two seriously wounded were lying nearby, a 16-year-old in the bus stop and a 45-year-old on the sidewalk.”
Senior MDA paramedic Emanuel Stern said it was a “miracle” that more people weren’t hurt.
“If the bus would have been full of passengers, or if there were people waiting at the bus stop, this whole incident could have ended very badly,” Stern said.
Raphael Poch, a spokesman for United Hatzalah International, a volunteer medic group, told CNN first responders saw a variety of injuries, including some from the blast itself. Poch said others were wounded by shrapnel from damaged cars as well as nails and ball-bearings – a hallmark of “bombs that detonate for the sake of terror.”
“This is something very very tragic, and it’s something we haven’t seen in a very long time. And we hope that it doesn’t come back to become a routine, or a regular situation,” Poch said. “Everyone should be able to go to work on a regular day without having to worry.”
The US Embassy in Jerusalem condemned in “the strongest possible terms today’s terrorist attacks on public locations” in a post on Twitter, while White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that “the United States stands with the Government and people of Israel.”
“We condemn unequivocally the acts of terror overnight in Jerusalem,” Jean-Pierre said.