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Analysis

BICOM Briefing: Jerusalem bus bombing

Following the explosion in Jerusalem yesterday (18 April) , which the IDF and police have confirmed was a bomb attack, think tank BICOM has compiled a briefing with the latest information.

Key points

  • This is  a serious escalation in severity of attacks that Israel has experienced within the wave of terror of the last 6 months, which until now has consisted of  stabbings, car rammings and shooting attacks.
  • We still don’t have all details, no terror group has yet claimed responsibility, and it is not yet known if this was a suicide attack or an IED.
  • More than the injuries caused, this touches on psychological scars carried by Jerusalemites to the days of the Second Intifada, when suicide bus bombings were prevalent.
  • Only time will tell if this was an aberration or new phase of the wave of terror.

What happened?

  • At 17:49 a powerful explosion shook the entrance to Jerusalem’‎s Talpiot neighborhood, when a bomb exploded on a number 12 bus.  The bus caught fire and was completely gutted as a result of the explosion. The fire spread to another bus and a private car that were nearby, causing them also to catch fire.
  • At least 21 people were injured.  As of this morning, 13 people are still hospitalized.  One is in very serious condition, four sustained moderate to serious injuries, and the rest are in moderate to light condition.
  • The bus driver confirmed he carried out the standard security inspection of the bus twice at the beginning of the drive and everything was okay.  People boarded, paid, and the entire drive was fine. He did no‎t notice anyone suspicious at any stage.

What we don’t know

  • The police are investigating whether one of the people injured in the bombing and who has yet to be identified is the terrorist.
  • There are three currently three scenarios being considered:
  • Did  the bomber deliberately detonate the bomb and sought to stage a suicide attack?
  • Did the bomb explode prematurely on the way to the target?
  • Was the bomb planted on the bus and the attacker able to flee?
  • As yet no organisation has claimed responsibility, but Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees have praised the attack.

What is its significance; what next?

  • This is a serious escalation in severity of attacks that Israel has experienced within the wave of terror of the last 6 months, which until now has consisted of  stabbings, car rammings and shooting attacks.
  • To perpetrate this type of attack one needs to source the explosive material and build a bomb.  If this was done inside Palestinian controlled areas, it needed to be smuggled into Israel.  It  also required  someone to deliver the device; a suicide bomber or someone to plant the bomb.
  • It is the first bus bombing attack in Jerusalem since February 2004 and first bus bombing since December 2013 in Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv.
  • There was already a high state of alert, due to the continued wave of terror and heightened tension ahead of the upcoming Passover festival.
  • One can now expected a further increase of forces deployed in population areas and public transportation.
  • These attacks are very difficult to perpetrate as the terror infrastructure was severely damaged as a response to the Second Intifada.  It remains to be seen if more of these attacks can be perpetrated.
  • More relevant than the loss of life is the psychological effect of these attacks on the Israeli population.
  • During the Second Intifada, 2001- 04, 85 people were killed in 8 separate suicide bombings on Jerusalem buses.