Bomb Explodes in Jerusalem; Rocket Attacks Hit the South

JERUSALEM, March 23 (JTA) – One person died, and at least 23 more people were injured when a bomb exploded in central Jerusalem.

Two of the injuries in the attack, which took place shortly before 3 p.m., were considered critical, according to news reports citing Magen David Adom, Israel’s version of the Red Cross. One died later in the day. One of the injured went straight to surgery at Hadassah Hospital; five others are reported in moderate condition.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following the attack that he would delay a planned trip to Moscow.

Police say the bomb was left in a bag in a telephone booth next to a busy bus stop along a main artery in central Jerusalem near the International Convention Center and about a block from the city’s central bus terminal. The blast blew the windows out of two buses picking up passengers.

The entrance to the city of Jerusalem was closed following the explosion.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom threatened to launch a new operation against Gaza in the wake of increased shelling on Israel’s South.

“The period of restraint is over; we must do everything we can to strike out against those who wish to hurt the innocent,” said Shalom on a visit to a site in Beersheba struck by two long-range Grad rockets on Wednesday. “I hope it won’t come to another Operation Cast Lead, but if there is no other choice we will launch another operation.”

Shalom, of the Likud Party, grew up in the Beersheba residential neighborhood hit by the rockets, which left one man wounded. The attack followed a Grad rocket attack Tuesday on the port city of Ashdod; that rocket landed near the center of the city of 200,000. Ashdod schools were closed Wednesday following the attack.

At least seven mortars and one other rocket were fired into southern Israel on Wednesday morning. Israel’s Home Front Command called on Israelis living in the country’s South to go about their daily routine, despite the increasing rocket fire.

Earlier Wednesday, Israel’s Air Force said it bombed the rocket launcher from which the rocket was fired into Ashdod.

On Tuesday, Israel’s foreign minister filed a formal complaint with the United Nations following the heaviest barrage of mortar shells on southern Israel in two years.

More than 50 mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning, according to reports. Two Israelis were injured by shrapnel, and homes and buildings sustained damage.

The armed wing of Hamas, Izzadin Kassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for most of the explosives.

Israel’s military struck several Hamas targets with tanks and aerial fire in Gaza later Saturday in response to the barrage. The strike lasted some 45 minutes, Ynet reported. The bodies of two Palestinians who were suspected of planting a bomb were found the next day near the Gaza-Israel border, according to reports.

Last Friday, 10 mortars were fired on Israel from Gaza.

In the complaint to the United Nations, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman decried international support for the establishment of a Palestinian state, saying that it would be a “terrorist state whose primary goal is the destruction of Israel.” He also noted that the attack on Israel came as Hamas and the Fatah Party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were talking about reconciliation.

Israel also filed a formal complaint with the U.N. Security Council on March 18 over its seizure of the cargo ship Victoria, which was transporting concealed arms from Iran via Syria to Gaza via Egypt.

Meanwhile, gunmen claiming to be from Hamas on Saturday raided the Gaza offices of the Reuters news agency, striking one employee with a metal bar, and smashing a television and other equipment. The gunmen also raided the offices of CNN and the Japanese station NHK.

On March 11, five members of the Fogel family, including three of the family’s six children, were stabbed to death in their beds by terrorists in Itamar.

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