Terror Attack in Tel Aviv

Bomb Explodes on Tel Aviv Bus, at Least 28 Hurt

Gag order placed on investigation into attack; massive traffic jams around Tel Aviv due to police checkpoints; explosion occurred just after noon, at corner of Shaul Hamelekh and Henrietta Szold streets; one casualty seriously wounded, one lightly-to moderately, and the rest sustain light injuries.

A bomb exploded on a bus in central Tel Aviv at a little after noon Wednesday, wounding at least 28 people. As of Wednesday night six people were admitted to hospital overnight. Of these, three had surgery for moderate injuries that were described as not life-threatening, and three had mild injuries only. The remaining 26 people who were injured in the incident were treated for minor injuries and released.

The police believe an unknown suspect placed an explosive device on the vehicle - a Dan company No. 142 bus - immediately before alighting. The bus was on Shaul Hamelekh Boulevard, near the corner of Henrietta Szold Street, when the explosion occurred.

Officials suggested that the device was relatively small, and consequently caused fewer and less severe casualties than a more powerful bomb would.

After the incident police officers combed the surrounding streets and beyond in an effort to apprehend the perpetrator and anyone who might have assisted him or her, including with transportation.

Central District Police Commander Benzi Sau announced the force's highest state of alert, "Code Dagger." The heightened policing level, which including roadblocks at major roads and intersections, snarled traffic throughout Tel Aviv for several hours.

A gag order is in effect on details of the investigation.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich said the explosive device had apparently been placed under one of the bus's seats. He urged Tel Aviv residents to continue their daily routine while remaining particularly aware of their surroundings.

"Be alert, keep your eyes open. We are in a time of preparedness that is definitely not over," Aharonovich said Wednesday after the attack. "The scenario of a terror attack in Tel Aviv, or anywhere else, was possible. We had no precise information, but there were assessments."

Ichilov Hospital, which is almost around the corner from the site of the explosion, treated 28 people for injuries after the attack. Three people had orthopedic and plastic surgery, three more were admitted overnight but did not require surgery and the rest were discharged after receiving treatment.

'Everything went black'

Elinor Lempel, 28, of Rishon Letzion, was driving her car next to the bus when the explosion occurred. Her arm was injured in the blast. "Everything went black," Lempel related later Wednesday. "I wanted to offer first aid to the injured, but a minute after I got out of the car I began to feel pressure in my chest, and then a security officer took me aside."

Lempel's twin sister, Ravit, called her just moments after the explosion. "She told me 'a Grad missile fell here,'" Ravit said, 'and when I heard there was a terrorist attack I realized [Elinor] was probably in the vicinity and I rushed to Ichilov," Ravit said.

Tal Bachor, 28, was taking the bus to a job interview. "I realized I had boarded the wrong bus and wanted to dismount at the next stop, then suddenly there was an enormous explosion. I lost consciousness for a few seconds, but as soon as I came to I ran out of the bus, then people came to help me," she recounted. Bachor received injuries to her ears and to a leg and an arm.

Hen Peretz, 26, is a musician who was on the bus when the explosion occurred. She was treated at Ichilov and released a few hours later. "I saw the smoke and immediately realized there had been a terror attack. There was a great blast and when I opened my eyes everything smelled like gas. I hope for better days," Peretz said.

Tel Aviv-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai visited the injured in hospital. He said local schools were instructed not to dismiss their students in the hours following the incident out of concern that additional attacks might be carried out. "The municipality is prepared to provide a solution for the various situations, the municipal emergency hotline is open and social workers are looking after the injured," Huldai said, adding, "We've been through difficult times in Tel Aviv and everyone can calm down, because everything is under control."

After the explosion many people in the city initially assumed the destruction was caused by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip and wondered why the Code Red sirens were not sounded. The last suicide bomb attack in the city was in April 2006, but in the past week a number of rockets have been fired at the Tel Aviv area from Gaza.

The Israel Police had judged that the military operation in the Strip could lead to terror attacks in Israeli cities. At the start of Operation Pillar of Defense, last week, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino raised the terror alert level.

Ichilov Hospital Emergency Hotline: 1255133