Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a condemnation of “all forms of terrorism” Tuesday, a day after a Jerusalem bus was bombed, injuring 21 people, and stressed that his administration rejects violence against civilians.
Abbas said during a visit to Germany that “we are against all forms of terrorist activity that affect Israeli and Palestinian civilians.”
After meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Abbas told reporters that the Palestinians “want to achieve an end to the occupation and the building of settlements through diplomatic means, and through peaceful resistance by the Palestinian people.”
On Monday, a bomb ripped through a Jerusalem city bus, setting it and nearby vehicles ablaze and injuring 21 people, in what police said was a terror attack.
The blast shredded weeks of calm in the capital after six months of Palestinian stabbings, car-rammings and shootings that left dozens dead, and was a return to a form of Palestinian violence against Israelis not seen in years.
Abbas had been castigated by Israeli and American officials for failing to condemn the wave of attacks.
In recent weeks he seemed to change course, telling an Israeli interviewer late last month that he was against stabbings and only supported peaceful Palestinian resistance.
“I am against these attacks and I have said this over and over again.” But if a young Palestinian loses hope, “then he or she doesn’t care if I condemn their deeds,” Abbas told German newspaper Der Spiegel in an interview published earlier Tuesday.
Confronted by the interviewer over his visits to relatives of assailants and the condolence letters he sends them, he argued that the PA supports “socially” the families of killed Palestinians. “It does not mean that we support what they did.”
Merkel also condemned Monday’s attack during her appearance with Abbas, saying there could be “no justification for violence.” She also urged a halt to Israeli settlement activity.
Israeli authorities on Tuesday were continuing to investigate the bombing, though details of the search for the bomber remained under gag order.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed officers were seeking to question the wounded and did not rule out the possibility of potential suspects among them.
“The investigation is looking to see how the explosive device was placed on the bus,” he said.
Several of the injured remain hospitalized, including one person in critical condition who has yet to be identified by officials, leading to speculation he may have been the bomber.
No terror group has claimed responsibility for the bombing and the small size of the bomb has led to some speculation that the explosion may have been carried out by an attacker working on his own.
After the bombing, a number of Palestinian terror groups praised the attack, though none took responsibility. The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed group linked to Abbas’s Fatah party also applauded the attack.
“For our Jerusalem and our Al-Aqsa Mosque, the good news of victory keeps arriving today, in a display we have not seen in a long time – a bus bombing operation in the occupied city of Jerusalem, in which dozens of Zionists were injured,” the group said in a statement.
The Palestinian Islamist terrorist group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, also welcomed the attack.
Bus bombings were common during the Second Intifada, or uprising, in the early 2000s, but Monday’s attack was the first bomb targeting a bus in Jerusalem since 2011, when a British tourist was killed by a bomb planted next to a bus stop.