One Dead, Over 30 Hurt in Jerusalem Bombing


One person was killed and more than 30 were wounded when a bomb ripped through a bus in Jerusalem on Wednesday, just hours after Palestinian factions vowed revenge for two deadly Israeli raids on Gaza.

The bombing came several hours after two Grad rockets fired by militants in Gaza had slammed into the southern city of Beersheva, prompting Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu to warn that anyone who attacks the Jewish state would learn it has an "iron will" to defend itself.

"There are those who ... are trying to test our will and our determination, and they will discover that this government and the army and the Israeli people have an iron will to defend the country," the premier said before leaving for a 24-hour visit to Moscow.

Police said the bomb had been hidden in a bag at a bus stop near Jerusalem's central bus station at the western entrance to the Holy City.

"There was an explosion around 3:00 pm (1300 GMT) near a bus stop where two buses had stopped to pick up passengers," said Israeli police chief Aharon Franco.

Several hours later, a 59-year-old woman who was critically wounded in the attack died of her injuries, medical officials at the Hadassa hospital in Ein Kerem said.

The Jerusalem attack, the first such bombing in the Holy City in more than six years, drew a barrage of international condemnation, led by U.S. President Barack Obama.

"I condemn in the strongest possible terms the bombing in Jerusalem today, as well as the rockets and mortars fired from Gaza in recent days," he said in a statement.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the attack a "callous and disgusting act of terrorism," while the Russian foreign ministry condemned it as a "barbaric act of terror."

Police and medics said up to 35 people had been wounded in what was the first major bombing in Jerusalem since September 2004 when a teenager blew herself up, killing two at a bus stop in French Hill, a settlement neighborhood in east Jerusalem.

Of Wednesday's wounded, at least three were in serious condition, while five sustained moderate injuries, many caused by shrapnel from the bomb which weighed between one and two kilos.

The explosion, which shook buildings hundreds of meters away, hit the number 74 bus as it halted to pick up passengers at a stop between the central bus station and the ICC conference center.

At least five people could be seen lying on the floor, covered in blood, an Agence France Presse correspondent said, as scores of ambulances and police cars rushed to the scene -- a transit hub through which well over a thousand buses pass every day.

Hours after the attack, hundreds of black-clad ultra-Orthodox Jews lined the road outside the ICC conference center, shouting: "Death to Arabs!" an AFP correspondent said.

The violence forced Netanyahu to delay by several hours his departure for Moscow in order to hold talks with Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, as well as other officials, his office said.

The tete-a-tete was also likely to have focused on a response to an upsurge in rocket fire from Gaza, where militants fired 16 projectiles into Israel -- two of them Grad rockets which hit the southern city of Beersheva.

The Grad attacks were claimed by the armed wing of Islamic Jihad which vowed to continue targeting cities deep inside the Jewish state in revenge for Israel's killing of eight Gazans a day earlier, two of them minors.

However, Gaza's Hamas rulers later pledged to "to restore calm" in the coastal enclave.

"We confirm that our stance in the government is set on protecting the stability," Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nounou said in a statement.

"We will work to restore the field conditions that were prevalent over the last few weeks."

Israel's Barak denounced both the rocket fire and the Jerusalem attack as unacceptable, warning that Hamas would pay the price for the unrest in Gaza.

"We will not tolerate attacks on Israeli citizens, not in the southern communities and not in Jerusalem," his office quoted him as saying.

"As far as we are concerned, Hamas is responsible for the shooting in the south ... and that responsibility has a price.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the Jerusalem attack, which was condemned by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, with the premier issuing a statement condemning "in the strongest terms, this terrorist attack, whoever was behind it."