Seven Israelis were killed and some 20 others were injured, 8 of them seriously, in a terrorist attack near the settlement of Emmanuel, east of Kalkilya in the West Bank. An explosive device was detonated under an armored bus. When passengers got off the bus, three terrorists opened fire at them and at passing cars. A similar combined bombing-shooting attack left 11 Israelis dead in the same area in December.
The attack occurred at 14:40 p.m. when a Dan company #189 bus was making its way from Bnei Brak to Emmanuel. A large bomb detonated under the bus, and this was followed by additional explosions. Immediately afterwards, three terrorists dressed as Israeli soldiers opened fire on the bus passengers, eyewitnesses said. Most of the injuries reportedly resulted from the shooting, which lasted for a number of minutes, and not as a result of the bombs.
"A roadside device detonated as a bus was passing near the Emmanuel settlement, and shooting then followed," said police spokesman Rafi Yaffe.
The combined bombing-shooting attack was very similar to an attack on a bus in the same area on December 12, when 11 Israelis were killed and 30 were wounded in what was described as a "Lebanon-style" attack.
The exact number of injured in the attack today is not yet known. According to media reports, there were many children injured, and a baby was one of those killed. A pregnant mother was seriously wounded, and doctors were forced to induce a birth. The premature infant is in critical condition.
"The picture at the scene was very difficult to see," a Magen David Adom volunteer told ynet. "The injured were lying on the highway. There was total silence - no one was shouting for help when we arrived."
News agencies reported that among the dead were a grandmother, her son-in-law and a baby from the same family. Also killed was a one-year-old child and a young boy returning home from his yeshiva.
Security forces, backed by IAF helicopters, are searching the surrounding area for the terrorists. Eyewitnesses said that the terrorists escaped by car in the direction of Nablus, to the northeast. Channel Two reported that there were indications that the terrorists fled far from the scene of the massacre.
Israel blamed the Palestinian Authority for the attack. "Israeli civilians continue to be the choice targets of Palestinian terrorists," said government spokesman David Baker, who cited the attack as "further proof that the Palestinian Authority considers terrorism a primary mode of operation."
Arye Mekel, another government spokesman, said that "Basically we see that nothing has changed. Anytime that the Palestinians see that there is some chance for progress in the peace process, this is what they do."
In an atypical move, the Palestinian Authority condemned the attack: "The Palestinian National Authority condemns the attack in accordance with its policies that reject targeting civilians, Israelis or Palestinians," its statement said. In the past, the PA has rarely if ever denounced attacks on soldiers and civilians in the territories.
Army Radio reported that the Palestinian condemnation of the attack was only issued "under international pressure." PA Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Abdel Rahman said that the Israeli civilians were "in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they shouldn't have been coming to 'our land.'" He further said that the Palestinian Authority actually supported and assisted such attacks in the West Bank, Army Radio reported.
Al Jazeera television reported that the attack was carried out by the the military wing of Fatah, the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, acting in concert with the military wing of Hamas. In a statement faxed to Reuters, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) also claimed responsibility for the "courageous attack that targeted a bus full of settlers."