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Israeli security forces are trying to unravel the significance of a bus bombing in Jerusalem this week. That attack wounded about 20 people, including a Palestinian, who later died. Police concluded he was a suicide bomber. Now they're trying to determine whether he was acting mainly on his own or whether Israel could face an organized wave of bombings, as it's seen in years past. NPR's Emily Harris reports.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Chanting in Arabic).
EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: The song of Muslim prayers filled a living room furnished with ruffled curtains and overstuffed couches in Bethlehem on Thursday. Here, Palestinian women gather to honor the death of Abdel Hamid Abu Sror, the 19-year-old old man who Israeli officials say carried the bomb onto Jerusalem's number 12 bus. The militant Islamist group Hamas also declared Sror the bomber and claimed him as one of their own.
Outside, on the shady front veranda, his mother, Azhar Abu Sror says she doesn't think her son joined Hamas. But she volunteers that he always admired a Hamas bomb maker, Yahya Ayash. Israel assassinated Ayash with an exploding cell phone in 1996, before her son was born.
AZHAR ABU SROR: (Through interpreter) Every young man has a model, and my son took Yahya Ayash as a model because he hurt those Israelis who hurt us every day. Keep in mind also that my father was killed by Israelis. My son is named after him and always felt he should take revenge for his grandfather's death.
HARRIS: Sror is the only one who died in this bus attack. The bomb scene reminded veteran Israeli responder Daniel Katzenstein of much more lethal bombings in the early 2000s, during the second intifada.
DANIEL KATZENSTEIN: The smell, the sights are similar to - thank God it hasn't been as bad as it was then in the, you know, second intifada. But our operations unit is also gearing us up for what type of protective measures we can have.
HARRIS: Israeli counterterrorism expert Yoram Schweitzer notes the thick, black smoke rising over Jerusalem and the photos of wounded people next to charred city buses triggered emotional memories among Israelis about the fear and damage suicide bombers can create. But he says this attack was nothing like that.
YORAM SCHWEITZER: Even if it was a suicide bombing, it wasn't a very successful suicide bombing on the part of the terrorist plan. The Israelis suspect this is one among several attempts that were carried out in recent months.
HARRIS: Other suicide bomb plans were stopped before they happened. Schweitzer says from a security perspective, the main thing about Monday's attack is that forces didn't find this bomber in time. Immediately afterward, Israeli forces arrested a number of Palestinians. Barak Ben-Zur, a former top official with Israeli internal security, says what's most important to find out is whether an organization was behind the young Palestinian bomber.
BARAK BEN-ZUR: It's not so important to individuals that is used for this purpose. It's important if someone's standing in the background and using those young people for those attacks
HARRIS: Terrorist organizations can usually build bigger bombs, he says. But even this relatively small explosion has left several Israelis still hospitalized, some unconscious and on ventilators. One is a teenage girl whose mother was also injured in the bus bombing. The mother was treated and released, but a hospital spokesperson says she's still there most of the time, by her daughter's side. Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem.
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