This is what I know as of 7:00 pm local time (the explosion in Jerusalem was at about 3:00 pm): At least 30 are wounded in Jerusalem and there is one fatality, a 59-year-old woman. This is the worst attack in Jerusalem in about three years. PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has said he “resolutely denounce[s] this terrorist attack no matter who stands behind it,” and the Palestinian Red Crescent has offered assistance to the Israeli wounded.
The bombing appears to be part of a wider escalation in the Palestinian war on Israeli civilians, and I expect there will almost certainly be a serious response by us. This morning, before the bomb went off, Islamic Jihad in Gaza struck the Israeli coastal city of Ashdod with a Grad missile, and an hour later sent a barrage of mortars into the western Negev and two more missiles into Beersheva. Yesterday, Gazans fired four mortars at Kibbutz Alumim and Kibbutz Sa’ad. The IDF fired mortars back, hitting Palestinian civilians as well as the attackers; exchanges of fire continued into last night. The IDF is reporting that the IAF struck and destroyed the cell that launched the Grad into Ashdod. More than sixty rockets have been fired by Palestinians into Israel since Saturday.
The firing of a weapon into Ashdod warrants special attention. Ashdod is a city of over 200,000 people, making it the fifth-largest city in the country, and it’s all of twenty miles south of Tel Aviv. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said this evening, “we cannot tolerate attacks on Israeli citizens, not in the southern communities and not in Jerusalem,” and Israeli politicians are calling for a response. Hamas officials insist that they are not interested in an escalation, but the attacks continue, possibly suggesting a break between the government and the military wing. Whether that’s true or not, the situation is rapidly becoming intolerable from the Israeli perspective.
Deputy PM Silvan Shalom, speaking at the site where one of the Grads fell in Beersheva, said, “the period of restraint is over, we must do everything we can to strike out against those who wish to hurt the innocent…I hope it won’t come to another Operation Cast Lead, but if there is no other choice we will launch another operation.”
Expect an IDF campaign into Gaza, possibly soon.