Kerry condemns bus attack, says Israelis won’t be intimidated

Kerry condemns bus attack, says Israelis won’t be intimidated

US secretary says administration hasn’t given up on two-state solution; UN envoy slams ‘heinous act’; Clinton urges Palestinians to denounce Jerusalem bombing

 


US Secretary of State John Kerry, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and the United Nation’s special Mideast envoy on Monday night condemned the Jerusalem bus bombing in which 21 Israelis were injured.

Two people were seriously injured, including one in critical condition, and six were moderately injured in the explosion on Monday afternoon, police and paramedics said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast by any terrorist groups or individuals.

Speaking at the dovish J Street conference, Kerry said the explosion in the Talpiot neighborhood of the capital “bears all the hallmarks of a terror attack and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”

“These outrages are intended solely to instill fear, but I think everyone here knows, history has proven, and we know it in our hearts and in our guts: they will never succeed in intimidating the Israeli people,” the US secretary added.

At the same time, Kerry stressed the importance of a two-state solution, saying “you can’t just keep condemning the other side and then not try to change lives and build up the capacity to change choices.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry at the J Street conference on April 18, 2016 (YouTube screenshot)

US Secretary of State John Kerry at the J Street conference on April 18, 2016 (YouTube screenshot)

Kerry said the Obama administration has not given up on securing an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

“I can tell you that for these next nine months, we will not stop working to find a way,” to advance a two-state solution, he pledged.

Clinton in a statement also denounced the attack and urged Palestinian leaders to do the same.

“This attack comes in the midst of a wave of violence that has rocked Israel for months. Israelis have been living in fear of going about their daily lives – going to the store, to the boardwalk, riding the bus. All of us, including Palestinian leaders, must condemn such violence,” she said.

“I will always stand with Israel’s right and ability to defend itself – it’s security is non-negotiable,” she said.

Meanwhile, the United Nation’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process denounced the terror attack and said praise for the “heinous act” is “unacceptable.”

“I strongly condemn today’s terrorist bomb attack on a bus in Jerusalem which has reportedly injured at least 15 Israelis, two of them seriously. Our thoughts and prayers go out for their full recovery,” Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement.

“Terrorism and violence can never be justified and the perpetrators of this heinous act must be brought to justice,” Mladenov said. “It is unacceptable that some have praised this act that will only fuel more hatred and further undermine prospects for peace.”

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov talks during a press conference in Gaza City, September 17, 2015. (AP/Adel Hana)

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov talks during a press conference in Gaza City, September 17, 2015. (AP/Adel Hana)

Mladenov urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders “to work together to avoid escalation and counter the extremist forces seeking to destabilize the situation.”

Gaza Strip-based Palestinian terror group Hamas praised the attack but did not claim responsibility in a statement on its website.

“Hamas welcomes the Jerusalem operation, and considers it a natural reaction to Israeli crimes, especially field executions and the desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Other Palestinian groups similarly applauded the bomb attack without claiming any hand in it. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad “welcomed” the bombing as did the Popular Resistance Committees, which also called for more attacks.

Firefighters and rescue personnel at the scene of a bus bombing, in Jerusalem, on April 18, 2016(Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Firefighters and rescue personnel at the scene of a bus bombing, in Jerusalem, on April 18, 2016(Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Police did not say if they had any leads on who was responsible for the bombing of the number 12 bus, which wounded 21 people, and no terror group took responsibility for the attack in the immediate aftermath.

Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will find the people responsible for Monday’s bombing, as investigators continued to piece together the rush-hour attack.

Netanyahu said Israeli forces would locate and punish those responsible.

“We will find out who placed the bomb, we will reach those who dispatched them and we will also get to those who stand behind them, and settle the account with these terrorists,” he said.

The prime minister also sent wishes for a speedy recovery to those injured in the bombing.

Firefighters look on as two buses burn in Jerusalem. Police launched an investigation into the incident, April 18, 2016. (Israel Police)

Firefighters look on as two buses burn in Jerusalemm April 18, 2016. (Israel Police)

The bus exploded as it was passing near the Talpiot neighborhood in the southern end of the capital carrying a number of passengers at around 5:45 p.m., police said. The blast set a car and a second empty bus on fire, injuring several more people.

The terror attack broke weeks of relative calm in the city after a six-month wave of Palestinian terror and violence seemed to be subsiding, and marked a return to a type of violence not seen in Jerusalem for years.

Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevy told media the blast was caused by an explosive device placed on the bus, but police did not know if the bomber was on the bus at the time of the blast.

“When a bomb explodes on a bus, it is a terror attack,” Halevy said, confirming that the bombing had been a terrorist action.

Police were investigating whether one of the people seriously injured in the explosion was in fact the terrorist responsible. However, the identity of the burned victim had not yet been confirmed, a spokesperson said.

The driver of the bus, who was lightly injured, told media he checked the bus for bombs twice before starting his route.

The bombing was a stark reminder of an attack method commonly used during last decade’s Second Intifada, but which has since become rare as so-called lone-wolf attackers have assaulted Israelis using simpler weapons, such as knives, guns and cars.

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