Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Aftermath of the Jerusalem Bombing

I received the following from the Jewish Federations, including a story of great courage about a man who may have saved dozens of lives at great risk to his own:

A day after a deadly terrorist attack in Jerusalem, the city has returned to a level of normalcy. On March 23, a bomb explosion next to a bus near the center of Jerusalem killed 59-year-old British national Mary Jane Gardner and wounded 50 others, including two critically. The blast occurred across the street from the Jerusalem Convention Center (Binyanei Ha’uma), opposite the city’s Central Bus Station, damaging Egged city buses #74 and #14.

Watch video footage following the attack.

Throughout Israel, and particularly in Jerusalem, citizens are hoping and praying that this latest attack was an aberration in the recent four years of quiet. The most common expression on the street is hope that Israel has not returned to “the bad old days.”

As a result of yesterday’s blast, police throughout Israel were moved to Level 3 operational activity - the highest level of alert. Despite this, Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen stated that Israel is "not returning to the era of terror attacks" and stressed that the police are prepared for all eventualities.

JFNA Israel’s intern, who was on board one of the buses, escaped serious physical injury and is now dealing with the emotional aftermath of the experience.

A few seconds before yesterday’s blast, the owner of a local kiosk called the police reporting a “suspicious package.” The kiosk itself had been hit by a different terrorist bomb a number of years ago, and was thus ironically and tragically called “Pitzutz shel kiosk” or “Blast of a Kiosk.” The caller also screamed to people to get away from the package and was himself severely injured. He is currently being treated in Hadassah Medical Center. Listen to a recording of this call (in Hebrew), which is then followed by the sounds of the blast and the dispatcher’s call for all units to respond, or read the English translation of the transcript at the end of this update.

Addressing the attackers and the current situation in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “They will learn that the Government, the IDF and the Israeli public have an iron will to defend the state and its citizens. We will act vigorously, responsibly and prudently in order to maintain the quiet and the security that have prevailed here over the past two years." Read the Prime Minister’s full statement. Meanwhile, in the country’s south, the Israel Air Force struck targets in the Gaza Strip, as Palestinians fired rockets and mortar shells across the border into southern Israel.

In a serious escalation, rockets fired from Gaza landed in the cities of Rishon Letzion and Yavne Thursday afternoon, locations that had previously been considered out of range. One rocket landed just nine miles south of Tel Aviv.

Approximately five mortar shells and two Qassam rockets struck Israeli territory overnight, and another rocket was fired at the Ashkelon coast on Thursday morning. The barrage came after militants fired about a dozen rockets and mortars into the western Negev on Wednesday, and dozens more in the days prior.

Further details on the deteriorating situation in the South can be found in Israel’s local news.• YNet News -- ‘Rocket fire on Israel continues; IDF attacks in Gaza’ • Jerusalem Post – ‘Rockets hit north of Ashdod after IDF tanks strike Gaza’

Israel has also submitted a complaint to the United Nations on the Jerusalem bombing and the Grad rocket attacks. Read the Ambassador’s full letter to the UN Secretary General.

English translation of the transcript of the police emergency call:

“Hello, Police, Sharon speaking.”
(Hurried) “Hello Sharon, I am speaking from Pitzutz Shel Kiosk (Blast of a Kiosk), at the Binyanei HaUma (Convention Center).
“There’s a bag…”
“What is there?”
“There is a bag here in front of the bus stop – “
*Loud explosion and screams are heard*
Different voice:“Central Bus Station police command. We’ve just had an explosion. Large number of injuries. All units respond quickly. Terrorist attack at the kiosk opposite the International Convention Center. Close all main thoroughfares to the area to allow rescue vehicles access.”
“Jerusalem Network – A large blast was heard about one minute ago near the International Convention Center. All available units to proceed immediately. In all likelihood this was a terrorist attack.”

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