ISRAEL, March 24, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM) — Officials have confirmed that a woman killed when a bomb exploded in Jerusalem was a British national, as Israeli aircraft hit targets in the Gaza Strip, Channel 4 News reported.
The woman, thought to be in her 60s, died when the blast ripped through at a crowded bus stop and injuried 30 others – three seriously – on Wednesday, the Foreign Office has said.
It was the first time Jerusalem had been hit by such a bomb since 2004.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would take action against those groups who he said are testing the Jewish state’s will to defend itself.
“Israel will act aggressively, responsibly and wisely to preserve the quiet and security that prevailed here over the past two years,” Netanyahu said.
World leaders condemned the bombing, as well as a flurry of rockets and mortars fired from Gaza into Israel in recent days.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the bombing in Jerusalem that took at least one life and injured innocent civilians. Terrorism and the targeting of civilians are never justified, and Israel like all nations, of course, has to respond when this occurs. The United States is committed to Israel’s security and we strongly condemn this violence, and we extend our deepest sympathies to all those affected.
“We also strongly condemn recent rocket attacks from Gaza against innocent Israeli civilians, and hold fully responsible the militants perpetrating these attacks. And I join President Obama in extending our sincere condolences to the friends and families of the Palestinians killed in Gaza, and appreciate that Israel has expressed regret. We stress the importance of calm, and we urge all concerned to do everything in their power to prevent further violence and civilian casualties among both Israelis. Violence only erodes hope for a lasting and meaningful peace, and the final realization of two states for two peoples.”
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said the bomb weighed about one or two kilos (2 or 4 pounds). “It exploded in a small suitcase on the sidewalk next to the bus stop,” he said.
Peace talks aimed at ending the decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians broke down last year after Mr Netanyahu refused to extend a partial freeze on Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but police blamed the attack on Palestinian militants, and fears are growing about a major escalation in hostilities between the neighbouring peoples after Israeli aircraft hit targets in the Gaza Strip on Thursday.
Israel said it was retaliating to Palestinian rocket attacks against Beersheba and Ashkelon and Hamas evacuated most of its manned positions throughout the Gaza Strip in anticipation of the airstrikes.
The hits on Ashkelon and Hamas were retaliations Tuesday’s Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip, which killed four Palestinian civilians, including three children playing football, and five militants.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has voiced regret for the civilian deaths but said Israel could not ignore attacks on its territory.
Regarding the latest strikes on Gaza, Hamas said Israel targeted smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, as well as one of its training camps in central Gaza.
A third strike hit a power transformer, causing blackouts in the area, according to reports. Medical workers said no one was injured in the strikes.
An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed that several strikes have been carried out, adding that they were carrries out in response to about a dozen rockets and mortars being fired from Gaza into southern Israel on Wednesday, some reaching as far as the city of Beersheva, 35km (20 miles) away. (*)