Two blasts went off near bus stops in Jerusalem at the height of morning rush hour on Wednesday, killing a Canadian-Israeli teenager and injuring at least 18, in what police said were attacks by Palestinians.
The first explosion occurred near a typically crowded bus stop on the edge of the city. The second went off about half an hour later in Ramot, a settlement in the city’s north. Police said one person died from their wounds and at least three were seriously wounded in the blasts.
The victim was identified as Aryeh Schupak, 15, who was heading to a Jewish seminary when the blast went off, according to a notice announcing his death. Schupak was also a Canadian citizen, according to Canada’s Ambassador to Israel Lisa Stadelbauer.
A rabbi with a seminary in Jerusalem says Aryeh was a very special student who was always smiling.
Rabbi Refaen Rockmill says the teen will be missed greatly by those at the Harei Yehuda Yeshiva school.
“He was always smiling. Everyone loved him. Loved him. And he loved everyone else,” Rockmill said Wednesday.
“He always did everything to try his best, and in getting on with life, and doing the right things and trying his best to be a good person.”
Rockmill says the boy hadn’t been feeling well in the morning and was contemplating whether or not to attend classes.
He says Aryeh did decide to go and died while he was on his way to school.
“He decided he wanted to come, even though he got up a little miserable, but he decided he wanted to come because he loves the place, the whole place because … we’re a family,” Rockmill said.
Another student, who was waiting with Aryeh, survived the attack, said Rockmill.
“We know that we have a purpose in our life, and ...we love each other and we understand what God wants us to deal with,” Rockmill said.
“So we will deal with it the best we (can), and we hope we do it in the rightest way that we (can).”
The two blasts went off near bus stops during rush-hour traffic, killing the teen and injuring at least 18 others in what police say were attacks by Palestinians.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the attacks on Twitter and paid tribute to Aryeh.
“Incredibly saddened to learn about the death of a young Canadian in the terrorist attack in Jerusalem. I’m sending his family and friends my deepest condolences,” Trudeau said.
“I’m also thinking of those who were injured. Canada condemns this violence in the strongest possible terms.”
Canada’s ambassador to Israel, Lisa Stadelbauer, also condemned the attack in a tweet, confirming the person who died was a Canadian citizen.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been surging for months, amid nightly Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank prompted by a spate of deadly attacks against Israelis that killed 19 people in the spring.
There has also been an uptick in recent weeks in Palestinian attacks. Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians after what Israel said was an armed attack in the occupied West Bank.
The violence occurred hours after Palestinian militants stormed a West Bank hospital and carried out an Israeli citizen seeking treatment there after a car accident, according to the young man’s father. That incident could further ratchet up tensions.
Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Israel would track down the attackers.
“They can run, they can hide – it won’t help them,” he said in a statement. “We will punish them to the fullest extent of the law.”
The developments took place as former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is holding coalition talks after national elections and is likely to return to power as head of what’s expected to be Israel’s most right-wing government ever.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, an extremist lawmaker who has called for the death penalty for Palestinian attackers and who is set to become the minister in charge of police under Netanyahu, said the attack meant Israel needed to take a tougher stance on Palestinian violence.
“We must exact a price from terror,” he said at the scene of the first explosion. “We must return to be in control of Israel, to restore deterrence against terror.”
Police, who were searching for the suspected attackers, said their initial findings showed that shrapnel-laden explosive devices were placed at the two sites. The police said it deployed additional officers to the city in the aftermath of the blasts.
The twin blasts occurred amid the buzz of rush hour traffic and police briefly closed part of a main highway leading out of the city, where the first explosion went off. Video from shortly after the initial blast showed debris strewn along the sidewalk as the wail of ambulances blared. A bus in Ramot was pocked with what looked like shrapnel marks.
“It was a crazy explosion,” Yosef Haim Gabay, a medic who was at the scene when the first blast occurred, told Israeli Army Radio. “I saw people with wounds bleeding all over the place.”
While Palestinians have carried out stabbings, car rammings and shootings in recent years, bombing attacks have become very rare since the end of a Palestinian uprising nearly two decades ago.
The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem condemned the violence, as did EU Ambassador to Israel Dimiter Tzantchev.
The Islamic militant Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and once carried out suicide bombings against Israelis, praised the perpetrators of the attacks, calling it a heroic operation, but stopped short of claiming responsibility.
“The occupation is reaping the price of its crimes and aggression against our people,” Hamas spokesman Abd al-Latif al-Qanua said.
Israel said that in response to the blasts, it was closing two West Bank crossings to Palestinians near the West Bank city of Jenin, a militant stronghold.
In Jenin late Tuesday, militants entered a hospital and removed the Israeli teen wounded in a car accident. The young man, 17, was from Israel’s Druze minority. His father, who was in the hospital room with him, said the militants disconnected him from hospital equipment and took him while still alive. The Israeli military said the young man was already dead when he was taken.
“It was something horrendous. It was something that was inhumane,” Husam Ferro, the teen’s father, told Israeli news site YNet. “He was still alive and they took him in front of my eyes and I couldn’t do anything.”
A Druze community leader told YNet talks were underway on the body’s return to the family. Palestinian militants have in the past carried out kidnappings to seek concessions from Israel. Lapid said the militants would “pay a heavy price” if the body was not returned.
Palestinian officials either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.
More than 130 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the West Bank and east Jerusalem this year, making 2022 the deadliest year since 2006. The Israeli army says most of the Palestinians killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting Israeli army incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.
At least eight Israelis have been killed in the most recent wave of Palestinian attacks.
The Israeli military said Wednesday that Palestinian gunmen opened fire on forces escorting worshippers to a flashpoint shrine in the West Bank city of Nablus overnight. The troops fired back and the Palestinian Health Ministry said a 16-year-old was killed in the incident, and hours later, it said Muhammed Abu Kishek, 22, also died from a gunshot wound to the stomach.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with east Jerusalem and Gaza. The Palestinians seek the territories for their hoped-for independent state.