Jerusalem police chief Yarom Halevy told media that the blast was caused by an explosive device placed on the bus, but it was unclear how the bomb got there and if the attack was an attempted suicide bombing.
Initial reports indicated that the number 12 bus, which was empty at the time, exploded as it was passing near the Talpiot neighborhood in the south of the capital. The blast apparently set a second bus and a car nearby on fire, injuring 16 people.
Police were investigating whether one of the people seriously injured in the explosion was in fact the terrorist responsible. However, the identity of the burned victim has not yet been confirmed, a spokesperson said.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel would “settle the score” with those responsible for the bombing.
Hamas praised the attack in a statement this evening: “Hamas blesses the Jerusalem operation, and considers it a natural reaction to Israeli crimes, especially field executions and the desecration of Al-Aqsa Mosque”. There has not been an immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion by any terrorist groups or individuals.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat earlier told Channel 2 news the explosive device had been located in the back of the bus, but urged people to remain calm and allow police to complete their investigation.
Deputy Jerusalem police Assi Aharoni said the police were hunting for suspects, and urged the public to be alert.
Avi Rivkind, a trauma surgeon at Hadassah Hospital, told Army Radio the injuries were consistent with previous terror attacks, including the use of metal pieces in an apparent bomb.
Pictures from the scene showed a city bus engulfed in flames and a second intercity bus nearby also on fire on the busy Moshe Baram street. A plume of smoke could be seen for miles around the capital.
A spokesperson for Israel’s ambulance service, Magen David Adom, said: “When we arrived to the scene of the incident we saw 16 people injured, lying on the ground. They were suffering from injuries including burns and bruises and were given primary health care”.
Attacks on Israeli buses were a hallmark of the Second Intifada (2000-2005) but have been rare since.