A British woman was killed, and at least 25 others injured including six Americans, when a ball bearing-packed four pound bomb planted at a Jerusalem bus stop exploded Wednesday -- an attack investigators believe was orchestrated by Palestinian terrorists, officials told ABC News today. It was the first such bombing in Jerusalem in about seven years.
"We believe the terrorist attack was carried out by Palestinians with the intent to kill as many Israelis as was possible near the central bus station in Jerusalem," said Mickey Rosenfeld, foreign press spokesman for the Israeli Police.
He said police officials don't know of anyone who has claimed responsibility for the attack. However, police officials said they are looking at the possibility of an organized cell, possibly in the Jerusalem area.
Mary Jean Gardner, a 59-year-old woman identified in media accounts as a Scottish born Bible translator, was traveling with her family when she was mortally wounded by the suitcase bomb. It had been planted beside a pay phone on sidewalk near the bus stop. All of the injured were taken to local hospitals, but Gardner, one of three rushed to hospitals in critical condition, did not survive.
The U.S. State Department announced today that six Americans were injured in the attack, but said "the majority of [the injuries] are not serious."
The bombing came in the midst of a wave of rocket attacks launched out of the Gaza Strip, some of which were claimed by a Palestinian terror group known as the Al Quds Brigade, an armed wing of the terrorist-designated Palestinian Islamic Jihad, according to media reports.
The bomb was thought to be either remotely triggered to go off just as the bus arrived or was on a timer, officials told ABC News Wednesday. Using a planted device is a significant change in tactics from the suicide bombing campaign that left a trail of blood across Israel during the second Palestinian uprising that targeted buses, clubs and restaurants during the last decade. The Israeli town of Dimona was struck by a suicide bombing attack in 2008, but it's been almost seven years since Jerusalem was the target of a bombing attack.
The bombing, along with the rocket attacks from Gaza, prompted Israeli officials to draft a letter to the United Nations complaining of a "very serious escalation of Palestinian terrorist attacks targeting innocent civilians."
Before Gardner was named as the attack's sole casualty, British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the bombing as a "callous and disgusting act of terrorism."
After learning of the bombing, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that Israel, "like all nations, of course, has to respond when this occurs."
Today Israeli Defense Forces launched a wave of air attacks in the northern region of the Gaza strip, targeting a "terrorist center" of Hamas that the IDF said had launched several rockets into southern Israel in recent days.
"We will not tolerate attacks on Israel's civilians, not in communities in the South and not in Jerusalem," Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak said Wednesday.
No casualties were reported on either side as a result of today's IDF assault or rocket attacks, according to a report by The Associated Press.
Bombing, Rocket Attacks From Gaza Prompt Israeli Complaint to U.N.
In the letter addressed to H. E. Li Baodong, President of the U.N. Security Council, Israeli ambassador to the U.N. Meron Reuben asked the international community to "send a firm message to these terrorists and their patrons, which seek to escalate conflict."
"This very troubling attack," the letter said, "follows a marked increase in terrorist activity deliberately targeting Israeli civilians over the past several days by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations."
In their own statement, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and prime minister Salam Fayad condemned the attack Wednesday.
"I condemn this terrorist operation, in the strongest terms, regardless of which party standing behind it," Fayad said according to the Palestinian News and Information Agency.