Israeli police said Sunday they had arrested a suspect in a shooting attack on a bus in Jerusalem’s Old City that wounded eight people, two critically and including a pregnant woman.
“The terrorist is in our hands,” police spokesman Kan Eli Levy told public radio hours after the attack that took place not far from the Western Wall, the holiest prayer site for Jews. A gunman started spraying bullets at the public transport bus and people outside the vehicle in the pre-dawn attack at the Tomb of David bus stop, recounted bus driver Daniel Kanievsky.
“I was coming from the Western Wall. The bus was full of passengers,” he later told reporters in front of his bullet-riddled vehicle.
“I stopped at the station of the Tomb of David.
At this moment, the shooting started.
Two people outside I see falling, two inside were bleeding.
” Israel’s emergency medical services, the Magen David Adom (MDA), called the incident a “terror attack in the Old City”.
“We were on the scene very quickly,” its medics said in a statement.
“On Ma’ale Hashalom Street we saw a passenger bus … in the middle of the road.
Bystanders called us to treat two males around 30 years old who were on the bus with gunshot wounds.
” MDA spokesperson Zaki Heller initially said six men and one woman were wounded, with all seven “fully conscious”, before police raised the wounded toll to eight.
One of the wounded was a pregnant woman, whose baby was delivered after the attack, a Shaarei Tsedek Hospital spokesman told AFP.
“She remains intubated and in serious condition,” he said.
“The infant was delivered and is in serious but stable condition.
” ‘Pay a price’ Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said after the attack that police, the army and other security services “are working to apprehend the terrorist and will not cease until he is caught”.
“All those who seek our harm should know that they will pay a price for any harm to our civilians,” Lapid added in the statement.
“The police and the IDF are working to restore calm and a sense of security in the city,” he said, referring to the Israeli Defense Forces.
The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, hailed a “heroic operation” without claiming responsibility for the attack.
“Our people will continue to resist and fight the occupier by all means,” it said in a statement.
The shooting came a week after the end of a three-day conflict between Israel and Islamic Jihad militants in the densely populated Palestinian enclave of Gaza.At least 49 Palestinians, including Islamic Jihad fighters and a number of children, died in the violence which ended last Sunday after Egypt negotiated a truce.
Since March, 19 people — mostly Israeli civilians inside Israel — have been killed in attacks, mostly by Palestinians.
Three Israeli Arab attackers were also killed.
In the aftermath of those attacks, Israeli security forces stepped up raids in the occupied West Bank. More than 50 Palestinians have been killed, including fighters and civilians, in operations and incidents in the West Bank since then.
Israel and Islamic Jihad militants on Sunday began a precarious Egyptian-brokered truce hoped to end three days of intense conflict in Gaza that has left at least 44 Palestinians dead, including 15 children.
The truce, which officially started at 11:30 pm (2030 GMT), aims to stem the worst fighting in Gaza since an 11-day war last year devastated the Palestinian coastal territory.
But a flurry of strikes and rocket attacks took place in the run-up to the truce, with sirens sounding in southern Israel moments before and after the deadline.
In a statement sent three minutes after the ceasefire began, Israel’s army said that “in response to rockets fired toward Israeli territory, the (military) is currently striking a wide range of targets” belonging to Islamic Jihad in Gaza.In a subsequent statement, the army said its “last” strikes took place at 11:25 pm.
While both sides had agreed to the truce, each had warned the other that it would respond with force to any violence.
“The situation is still very fragile, and I urge all parties to observe the ceasefire,” UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland said in a statement.
– ‘Respond strongly’ –Since Friday, Israel has carried out heavy aerial and artillery bombardment of Islamic Jihad positions in Gaza, with the militants firing hundreds of rockets in retaliation.
Buildings in Gaza have been reduced to rubble, while Israelis have been forced to shelter from a barrage of rockets.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office late Sunday thanked “Egypt for its efforts” as it agreed to the truce, but said it that “if the ceasefire is violated”, Israel “maintains the right to respond strongly”.
Islamic Jihad member Mohammad al-Hindi had already confirmed the militants had accepted the truce, but the group added in a statement that it too “reserves the right to respond” to any aggression.
In addition to the 44 people killed including 15 children, the Gaza health ministry said 360 people had been wounded in the Palestinian enclave, which is run by the Islamist group Hamas.
Israel insists several children in the territory have been killed by stray militant rockets.
Three people in Israel have been wounded by shrapnel, while 31 others have been lightly hurt, emergency services said.
Islamic Jihad’s Hindi said the ceasefire deal “contains Egypt’s commitment to work towards the release of two prisoners”.
The pair were named as Bassem al-Saadi, a senior figure in the group’s political wing who was recently arrested in the occupied West Bank, and Khalil Awawdeh, a militant also in Israeli detention.
– ‘Terrifying‘ –Gaza resident Nour Abu Sultan had said earlier Sunday that she was “awaiting the declaration of the ceasefire on tenterhooks”.
“We haven’t slept for days (due to) heat and shelling and rockets, the sound of aircraft hovering above us… is terrifying,” the 29-year-old said.
Dalia Harel, a resident in the Israeli town of Sderot close to the Gaza border, said she was “disappointed” at news of a truce despite her five children being “traumatised”.
“We’re tired of having a military operation every year,” she said.
“We need our military and political leaders to get it over with once and for all… we’re not for war, but we can’t go on like this.
” Islamic Jihad is aligned with Hamas but often acts independently.
Hamas has fought four wars with Israel since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, including the conflict in May last year.
The Israeli army has said the entire “senior leadership of the military wing of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza has been neutralised”.
Muhammad Abu Salmiya, director general of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, said medics were treating wounded people in a “very bad condition”, warning of dire shortages of drugs and fuel to run power generators.
The army said it had struck over a hundred Islamic Jihad positions, with the militants firing hundreds of rockets and mortars, some of them falling short inside Gaza. Israel has said it was necessary to launch a “pre-emptive” operation Friday against Islamic Jihad, which it said was planning an imminent attack.
The army has killed senior leaders of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, including Taysir al-Jabari in Gaza City and Khaled Mansour in Rafah in the south.
Israel bombarded Islamic Jihad positions in the Gaza Strip for a third day Sunday as violence escalated, with 31 Palestinians reported dead and militants firing their first rockets at Jerusalem.
Six children were among those killed in the latest “Israeli aggression” since Friday, and 265 people have been wounded, said health authorities in the Islamist-run enclave where several buildings were reduced to rubble.
The fighting is the worst in Gaza since a war last year devastated the impoverished coastal territory, home to some 2.
3 million Palestinians, and forced Israelis to seek shelter from rockets.
Israel pressed on with its aerial and artillery bombardment of positions of Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed group designated as a terrorist organisation by several Western nations, as the group has fired over 500 rockets in return.
The Israeli army has said the entire “senior leadership of the military wing of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza has been neutralised”, and Prime Minister Yair Lapid vowed Sunday that “the operation will continue as long as necessary”.
In Gaza, run by the Islamist group Hamas — who said Sunday they were “united” with Islamic Jihad, but have not joined the fray — the ministry said 31 people had died since the start of Israel’s “Operation Breaking Dawn”.
Israel said it had “irrefutable” evidence that a stray rocket fired by Islamic Jihad was responsible for the deaths of several children in Jabalia, northern Gaza, on Saturday.
It was not immediately clear how many children were killed there, but an AFP photographer saw six dead bodies at the local hospital, including three minors.
“We were sitting in the street and suddenly we saw an explosion,” said Muhammad Abu Sadaa, describing the devastation in Jabalia.
“We came running to the place and found body parts lying on the ground… they were torn-apart children.
” Leaders targeted The army said it had struck 139 Islamic Jihad positions, with the militants firing 470 rockets that had crossed into Israel, while another 115 rockets fired from Gaza fell inside the enclave.
Al Quds Brigades, the Islamic Jihad’s military wing, said it had “fired rockets” at Jerusalem, where sirens wailed and explosions were heard as the army shot them down.
In total, Israel said its Iron Dome air defence system had intercepted some 185 rockets, with a success rate of 97 percent of projectiles targeted.
Jews in Israel-annexed east Jerusalem meanwhile marked the Tisha Be’av fasting day Sunday at the Al Aqsa mosque compound, known in Judaism as the Temple Mount, where some Palestinians shouted “God is greatest” in response.
Tensions there have previously sparked wider violence — with Hamas’s Doha-based chief Ismail Haniyeh warning of the risk of an “uncontrollable” security crisis.
An AFP photographer was briefly detained by Israeli police, amid a heavy security deployment, but wider commemorations passed off without major incident.
Israel has said it was necessary to launch a “pre-emptive” operation against Islamic Jihad, as the group was planning an imminent attack.
“Whoever seeks to hurt Israeli citizens will be hurt,” said Defence Minister Benny Gantz.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said Cairo was talking with both sides “around the clock” to ease the violence, but Gantz said strikes would continue “until we restore quiet and remove the threats”.
Israel’s army has reported killing senior leaders of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, including Taysir al-Jabari in Gaza City and Khaled Mansour in Rafah in the south, as well as the arrest of 20 members in the West Bank. Israel’s Lapid called the killing of Mansour an “extraordinary achievement”.
‘We are all alone’ Daily life in the Gaza strip has come to a standstill, with the sole power station shut down due to a lack of fuel after Israel closed its border crossings.
Gaza’s health ministry said the next few hours will be “crucial and difficult”, warning that without electricity it soon risked suspending vital services.
In Gaza City, resident Dounia Ismail said the Israeli bombardment “brings back images of fear, anxiety and the feeling that we are all alone”.
Civilians in southern and central Israel, meanwhile, were forced into air raid shelters, with two people hospitalised with shrapnel wounds and 13 others lightly hurt while running for safety, the Magen David Adom emergency service said.
“It’s tense, it’s frightening,” said Beverly Jamil, a resident of Ashkelon close to Gaza, who has been rushing repeatedly to her air raid shelter.
“Ashkelon’s a ghost town — it’s a holiday, kids should be out playing.
” Meanwhile, the response of Hamas to the violence remains critical, with spokesman Fawzi Barhoum offering the group’s support to Islamic Jihad on Sunday, but stopping short of saying they would take part.
Islamic Jihad is aligned with Hamas but often acts independently.
Hamas has fought four wars with Israel since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, including the conflict last May. “The resistance in all its military wings and factions are united in this battle,” Barhoum said.
A senior militant from Islamic Jihad was among more than 15 people killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip Friday, prompting the militant group to warn Israel has “started a war”.
A child was among those killed in the strikes, the enclave’s health ministry said, while Israel’s military estimated 15 combatants were killed.
The Israeli army said the strikes were part of an operation “against targets in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad” group.
Islamic Jihad said Israel had “started a war against our people”.
“We collectively must defend ourselves and our people.
We will not allow the enemy’s policy of undermining the resistance and our national perseverance,” the group said in a statement.
Flames poured out of a building in Gaza City following an air strike, while wounded Palestinians were evacuated by medics.
Gaza’s health ministry reported “a five-year-old girl, targeted by the Israeli occupation” was among those killed.
Islamic Jihad said it was mourning “the great jihadist commander Tayseer al-Jabari ‘Abu Mahmud’, who was killed in a Zionist assassination in Gaza City”.
An Israeli military spokesman said “we are assuming about 15 killed in action” in Gaza, referring to Palestinian combatants.
“We haven’t finished yet,” spokesman Richard Hecht told journalists.
The strikes come four days after Israel closed its two border crossings with Gaza and restricted the movement of Israeli civilians living near the frontier, citing security concerns.
The measures follow the arrest in the occupied West Bank of two senior members of Islamic Jihad, which has a strong presence in Gaza. Hamas, the militant group which rules Gaza, said Israel has “committed a new crime for which it must pay the price”.
“The resistance in all its military arms and factions is united in this struggle and will speak loudly, as we cannot accept the situation as it is… all fronts must open fire on the enemy,” Hamas said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid was due to hold talks with Defence Minister Benny Gantz on Friday evening.
“The Israeli government will not allow terrorist organisations to set the agenda in the Gaza Strip and threaten the citizens of the State of Israel.
The security forces will act against the Islamic Jihad terrorists to remove the threat,” Lapid said.
Islamic Jihad is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States.
On Friday afternoon, the Israeli military banned large gatherings in communities within 80 kilometres (50 miles) of the Gaza frontier, until Saturday evening.
The measures follow four days of road closures and other restrictions on movement in the border area.
Palestinians including patients and those with Israeli work permits have been prevented from leaving the Gaza Strip since Tuesday, while the goods crossing has also been shut.
Gaza’s only power station is at risk of imminent outage due to a lack of fuel supplies through Israel, its manager warned on Thursday.
This week’s shutdown of the border area follows a raid by security forces in the northern West Bank district of Jenin.
Israeli forces detained Bassem al-Saadi and another senior member of Islamic Jihad.
A 17-year-old member of the group was shot dead by Israeli forces during the raid.
Israeli forces have been placed on high alert near the Gaza Strip on Tuesday for fear of escalation following the killing of a Palestinian man.
Local media reported that the Islamic Jihad leader was also arrested in the West Bank overnight.
Roads near the Palestinian enclave were blocked and the train service in the southern city of Ashkelon were suspended following fear of possible anti-tank, rocket or sniper fires from Gaza.Activities in local Israeli schools and colleges were canceled.
The Erez Crossing, the only pedestrian passage between Gaza and Israel, was also temporarily shut down.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office announced in a statement that Lapid called a special security assessment meeting with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and other senior military and security officials.
At least one Palestinian was killed and another was injured during a raid by Israeli forces in northern West Bank city of Jenin overnight, Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed.
Meanwhile, Israel’s border police announced in a statement the arrest of two Palestinian suspects in Jenin and confiscation of a handgun, magazines, bullets and cash.
One of the two Palestinians arrested as Bassam al-Saadi, a senior member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group.
Russia's top diplomat will address the Arab League at its Cairo headquarters on Sunday, the organization said, days after Russia participated in a summit hosted by Iran, a regional rival of some Arab states.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet with Arab League leader Ahmed Aboul Gheit and representatives of the 22 nations that make up the pan-Arab bloc, he said on Thursday.
On Tuesday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi hosted a summit attended by his Russian and Turkish counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The meeting was nominally about conflict-ridden Syria, where Iran and Russia back the government while Turkey supports groups that oppose the regime.
Russia invaded Ukraine in February and the conflict's impact on the global economy was also at the center of talks in Tehran.
On Tuesday, Putin said "progress" had been made in discussions over Turkey's grain export, adding after talks with Erdogan and Raisi that any deal depended on the West's willingness to give up some ground.
NATO member Turkey has been using its good relations with both the Kremlin and Kyiv to try to broker a deal on a safe way to deliver the grain.
The war in Ukraine has caused food insecurity in Arab nations, many of which are heavily dependent on wheat imports from the former Soviet state.
The Tehran summit came days after US President Joe Biden toured the Middle East, visiting Israel, the Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia.
In Jerusalem, Biden and Israel's interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid announced a new security pact that commits Washington never to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.
And in Saudi Arabia, he stressed that the United States "will not walk away and leave a vacuum for China, Russia or Iran to fill."
Some Arab countries, namely those ruled by Sunnis, have tense ties with Iran, which they accuse of being involved in many regional conflicts, including the wars in Syria.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Friday that the Islamic republic will never back down on the rights of the country's people in talks on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal.
Amir-Abdollahian made the comments in a tweet in reaction to a joint statement signed by US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid in Jerusalem on Thursday.
They promised to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Iran will continue the path of sustainable development and make honorable efforts to remove sanctions forcefully and logically, Amir-Abdollahian noted.
He said that Iran's goal is to reach a good, solid and lasting agreement in the nuclear negotiations.
The Joint Declaration of Strategic Partnership between the United States and Israel was signed on the second day of Biden's trip to the Middle East.
The United States has pledged not to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon even at the cost of using all elements of its national power.
The United States affirmed its commitment to work together with other partners "to confront Iran's aggression and destabilizing activities, whether advanced directly or through proxies."
Iran signed the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with world powers in July 2015, agreeing to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of sanctions against the country.
However, former US President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the deal in May 2018 and reimposed unilateral sanctions on Iran, prompting the latter to abandon some of its commitments under the pact.
Talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal began in April 2021 in Vienna, but were suspended in March this year due to political differences between Tehran and Washington.
After a three-month hiatus, talks recently resumed in Doha, the Qatari capital, but failed to reach any agreement to resolve the remaining differences.
Saudi Arabia announced on Friday the decision to open its airspace to all airlines.
The country's General Civil Aviation Authority tweeted that the decision honors Saudi Arabia's dedication to meeting its obligations under the 1944 Chicago Convention.
The Convention stipulates non-discrimination between civil aircraft used in international air navigation.
The decision consolidates the Kingdom's position as a global hub connecting three continents and enhancing international air connectivity.
Earlier, interim Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid applauded Saudi Arabia's decision to open airspace.
"This is the first step.
We will continue to work with due caution, for the Israeli economy, its security and for the citizens of Israel," Lapid said in a statement issued by his office.
Previously, Israeli airlines were unable to travel through Saudi airspace due to a ban, making flights to regions such as Asia more expensive and longer.
The announcement comes on the same day that Saudi Arabia prepares to host US President Joe Biden on Friday.
Biden's visit is his first to the Kingdom and the Middle East since he became president.
He will meet with the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and the country's Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.
U.S. President Joe Biden, on Thursday, said that the country would not wait forever for Tehran’s response on returning to a 2015 nuclear deal.
He made the statement following a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
The U.S. and Iran have been holding indirect talks in an attempt to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement under which Iran limited its nuclear programme in return for relief from economic sanctions.
“We’ve laid out for the leadership of Iran what we’re willing to accept in order to get back into the JCPOA.
“We’re waiting for their response. When that will come, I’m not certain, but we are not going to wait forever.’’ (
U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday will sign a joint agreement pledging to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon on the second day of Biden’s Middle East trip.
A senior Biden administration official, describing the joint declaration for reporters in a conference call, said the agreement will expand on the long-standing security relationship between the United States and Israel.
“This declaration is pretty significant, and it includes a commitment to never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon and to address Iran’s destabilising activities, particularly threats to Israel,” the official said.
Biden, on his first Middle East trip since taking office in early 2021, arrived in Israel on Wednesday and has talks with Israeli leaders on Thursday.
He will appear at a joint news conference with Lapid.
Biden will meet Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank on Friday and hold talks with leaders of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies in Jeddah on Saturday.
Biden faces an uphill battle persuading Iran to rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement that his predecessor, Donald Trump, abandoned in 2018.
Biden is likely to face questions from Israel and from Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates about the wisdom of reviving the Iran nuclear deal and what the United States will do to counter Iran’s regional actions, regardless of whether the deal is resurrected.
In an Israeli television interview on Wednesday, Biden said the deal represented the best chance of holding up Iran’s attempts to develop a nuclear bomb.
“The only thing worse than the Iran which exists now is an Iran with nuclear weapons and if we can return to the deal, we can hold them tight,” he said.
Asked if the United States could use force if needed, he said: “If that was the last resort, yes.”
Some Israeli, as well as Gulf Arab officials, believe the deal’s sanctions relief would provide Iran far more money to support proxy forces in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq.
They are also skeptical about whether the Biden administration will do much to counter Iran’s regional activities.
Iran denies that its nuclear programme is aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons.
The U.S. official, asked if the declaration is about buying some time with Israel as Washington pursues negotiations with Iran, said: “If Iran wants to sign the deal that has been negotiated in Vienna, we have made very clear we’re prepared to do that.
“And, at the same time, if they’re not, we will continue to increase our sanctions pressure, we will continue to increase Iran’s diplomatic isolation.”
The official said the joint agreement will pledge ongoing U.S. military aid for Israel and will emphasize support for the Abraham Accords, the agreements between Israel and a handful of Arab states that the Trump administration helped broker.