|Shmuel HaNavi bus bombing|
|Part of the Second Intifada militancy campaign|
|Date||August 19, 2003|
|Deaths||23 civilians and 1 unborn child (+ 1 bomber)|
|Perpetrators||Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.|
The Shmuel HaNavi bus bombing was the suicide bombing of a crowded public bus (Egged bus 2) in the Shmuel HaNavi quarter in Jerusalem, on August 19, 2003. Twenty-four people were killed and over 130 wounded. Many of the victims were children, some of them infants. The Islamist militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
On August 19, 2003 (22 Av 5763), a Hamas suicide bomber sent out by the organization's Hebron cell disguised himself as a Haredi Jew and detonated himself on a No. 2 Egged bus traveling through Jerusalem's Shmuel HaNavi neighborhood. He blew himself up after entering the back door. The double-length bus was crowded with Orthodox Jewish children returning from a visit to the Western Wall. In addition to the bomber, the huge explosion killed 7 children and 16 adults, among them a woman who was eight months' pregnant, and injured more than 130 people. The bomb was spiked with ball-bearings designed to increase injuries on the crowded bus. Hamas said the bomber was a 29-year-old mosque preacher from the city of Hebron.
Because so many of the dead and injured were children, the media dubbed it the "children's bus". According to an Associated Press report,
Strollers were scattered near the stricken bus, medics carried away children with blood-smeared faces and a baby girl died in a hospital before doctors could find her parents. At least five children were among the 18 dead in Tuesday's suicide bombing by a Palestinian militant who blew himself up on a Jerusalem bus. Forty children were among more than 100 people injured. The attack was the 100th Palestinian suicide bombing against Israelis since the latest round of fighting began in September 2000. The youth of the victims stands out in that grim list, and the government said the choice of target was particularly cold-blooded.
Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. According to Tariq Ali, however, the bombing was carried out by a "self-proclaimed 'Hamas' cell from Hebron, disowned and denounced by the official leadership." The attack put an end to the so-called Hudna that had been announced in July 2003. United States president George W. Bush sent his condolences to the victims' families. The European Commission also denounced what it called the "devastating terrorist attack" and called on the Palestinian Authority to intervene to bring a halt to such acts:
The European Commission strongly condemns last night's devastating terrorist attack in Jerusalem and expresses its sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to the Israeli Government. This is an attack on all the forces working for peace. The European Commission calls on the Palestinian Authority to do everything in its powers to prevent such unacceptable and unjustified act of violence, and urges the PA and the Israeli Government to pursue their dialogue and common efforts towards peace as set out in the Road Map.
Following the attack, Israeli forces arrested 17 Palestinians suspected of being Hamas activists, including several of the bomber's relatives, while Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shanab and his two bodyguards were killed by an Israeli helicopter missile strike in Gaza.
In 2004 a memorial plaque to the victims was erected in the Beit Yisrael neighborhood of Jerusalem. The name of the only non-Jewish victim, Maria Antonia Reslas, was engraved separately from the names of the other victims, with the title "Mrs" rather than the title "sainted" (kadosh) used for the Jews, resulting in some controversy.