August 19, 2003
A suicide bomber kills 23 people and injures more than 130 others by detonating an 11-pound explosive packed with ball bearings on a bus in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Shmuel Hanavi in central Jerusalem. Many of the passengers on the double bus are traveling home after praying at the Western Wall. The fatalities include an 11-month-old and a 3-year-old.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas denounces the attack and announces his intention to investigate the incident and hold the perpetrators responsible. Hamas and Islamist Jihad claim the terror attack, which halts the peace process and ends 50 days of relative peace after a Second Intifada cease-fire signed June 29.
Peaceful steps had included loosening travel restrictions for Palestinians. Israel also had substantially decreased criticism of Palestinian leaders regarding procedures for punishing violent militants. But Israel responds to the bombing by tightening travel restrictions, and Israel and the United States resume pressure on Abbas to properly punish militants.
On Sept. 1, the Israeli Cabinet decides that because of the Shmuel Hanavi bus bombing, Israel will declare war on Hamas and target the leaders of the group. The Cabinet also halts peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority until the PA appropriately addresses terror attacks.