(JTA) — The United States government “strongly” condemned the bombing of a bus near Tel Aviv.
“Violent acts targeting civilians are deplorable,” read the State Department statement late Sunday night, hours after the public bus exploded in the coastal city of Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv. The bus had originated in Bnei Brak.
All the passengers had been removed from the bus after a fellow passenger noticed the suspicious package that contained the bomb.
“We reaffirm our unshakable bond with Israel and our solidarity with the Israeli people,” the statement concluded.
It was the first bus bombing attack in Israel in slightly over a year. Police are considering the bombing a terrorist attack, according to reports.
Palestinian terror groups welcomed the attack, but none claimed responsibility.
No suspects have been apprehended. Israeli security forces were checking cars entering the West Bank.
The bomb, which was placed in a black backpack with wires sticking out, detonated as a police sapper was working to defuse it.
It is unclear if the bomb was a terror attack or criminal in nature. Police sources have told Israeli and international media that it appeared to be a terror attack.
Bus passenger David Papo first identified the bomb and helped remove other passengers. In a telephone call, Israeli President Shimon Peres thanked Papo for his quick action.
Papo told Peres why he decided to examine the bag.
“I didn’t understand how someone could leave such a big bag on the bus,” Papo said. “I tried to lift the bag, but it was so heavy that it raised my suspicion further. When I opened the bag, I saw what it was.
“When the explosion happened, we were in the road helping the police to stop passers-by and the traffic. Only afterwards when I saw the hole in the bus did I understand the damage that could have been caused.”