JNN 24 Mar 2011 : Israeli jets have staged three air strikes over Gaza, hours after a bomb struck a crowded bus stop in West Jerusalem, killing at least one person and wounding 30 in what authorities said was the first major attack in the city in several years.
Hamas, the Palestinian group which controls the Gaza Strip, said on Thursday that the strikes targeted smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, as well as one of its training camps in central Gaza.
A third strike hit a power transformer, causing blackouts in the area, witnesses said. Medical workers said no one was injured in the strikes. Hamas said it ordered its personnel to evacuate their positions.
An Israeli defence spokeswoman confirmed the sorties, saying: “The air force targeted two tunnels at the south of the Gaza Strip and a terrorist target in Gaza.”
The military said the strikes were a response to the recent barrage of rockets.
On Tuesday, an Israeli tank fired shots at a home in the Gaza Strip killing at least 10 Palestinians, including four children, and injuring over 50 others.
Wednesday’s bombing of the bus stop came several hours after two Grad rockets fired from Gaza hit the southern Israeli city of Beersheva.
Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from Jerusalem, said that one person, a 60-year-old woman, died following the blast at the bus stop.
“There was no immediate claim of responsibility. […] The normal reaction is for people to blame Palestinian groups when there is an explosion in Jerusalem, but the police are carrying out an investigation and aren”t ruling out any possibility,” our correspondent said.
Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, told Al Jazeera that a device in a bag that was left in a phone booth near the bus station exploded when the bus passed.
“This was not a suicide attack,” Rosenfeld said.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, warned militants not to test Israel’s “iron will,” and vowed a tough response to the bombing.
Netanyahu said that Israel would act aggressively and responsibly after the attack in Jerusalem.
“Israel will act aggressively, responsibly and wisely to preserve the quiet and security that prevailed here over the past two years,” Netanyahu said before boarding a plane to Moscow where he will meet Russian leaders.
Meanwhile, Nir Barkat, the Jerusalem mayor, said the city would rebound quickly, vowing that Jerusalem’s first-ever marathon would take place as planned on Friday.
Bombings have been rare in Jerusalem in the past several years. Palestinians carried out dozens of bombings in the city at the height of an uprising that began in 2000.
Spike in violence
Violence has spiked in recent days, with the knife slaying this month of a Jewish settler family as they slept and the deaths of at least eight Palestinians, including children, in Gaza by Israeli strikes on Tuesday.
The Israeli military confirmed it had fired mortar rounds towards the eastern outskirts of Gaza City on Tuesday, shortly after four rockets hit Israel.
In response to the attack in Jerusalem, Hamas in the Gaza Strip said it was seeking to reverse the recent spike in violence with Israel.
“We stress that our constant position in the government is to protect stability and to work in order to restore the conditions on ground that used to be dominant in previous weeks,” Taher Al-Nono, a Hamas spokesman, said.
Islamic Jihad, another armed group which has carried out dozens of attacks, said it was not responsible for the blast in Jerusalem.
But Khader Habib, a spokesman, said the group “applauds all efforts to respond to the crimes committed daily against our people”.
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, condemned the attack in Jerusalem.
In a statement on the website of WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, Abbas also reiterated his condemnation to the Israeli operation in Gaza on Tuesday.