(VIDEO) Terror in the heart of Israel: 32 people were wounded after a suicide bomber detonated himself near Tel Aviv's old central bus station Thursday afternoon.
The bomber blew himself up around 3:50 p.m. at the corner of Salomon and Neve Sha'anan streets in the south of the city.
Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. Palestinian sources told Ynet the bomber is Islamic Jihad member Sami Abd al-Hafiz Antar, 22, from Nablus.
Terror in Tel Aviv (Footage: Ilan Lorenzo, Yaron Brenner)
According to the Magen David Adom ambulance service, one person sustained serious wounds while the others suffered light to moderate injuries. All wounded were taken to Tel Aviv-area hospitals. Police are examining whether the relatively low number of casualties was a result of a malfunction in the explosive device.
Meanwhile, the Fatah's al-Aqsa Brigades also claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Abu-Udai, a senior al-Aqsa member told Ynet the attack in Tel Aviv "is a blessed operation that comes in response to recent Israeli assassinations, the last of which is the assassination of the Hamas commander in Tul Karem."
Abu-Udai also said the Palestinian people had a right to defend themselves against Israeli violations of the calm.
"The attack shows that the Palestinian resistance, despite all of Israel's security measures, is able to reach any place, any time, time after time," he said.
'We prevent 99 percent of terror attacks'
Extensive devastation was reported at the "Rosh Ha'ir" food stand, where the bomber blew himself up, but almost no damage was reported at nearby stores. Most victims of the blast were at the food stand at the time of the explosion.
Thursday's bombing marks the first attack in Israel following a month of relative quiet.
Sapper scours area for more bombs (Photo: Yaron Brenner)
Large police forces and ambulance teams were dispatched to the area following initial reports of the explosion. Police sappers were scouring the area for search of more explosive devices or potential bombers. Police also set roadblocks at the entrance to Tel Aviv.
Senior police officials also arrived at the scene, as well as Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. Tel Aviv District Police Commander David Zur said police did not have any concrete warnings ahead of the bombing.
"The forces arrived at the scene very quickly…our working assumption is that there are always terror warnings," he said. "At the end of the day we are able to prevent 99 percent of terror attacks, but once a terrorist arrives at the central bus station it is much easier to blow up."
'Blast shook all the windows'
Referring to the relatively low number of casualties, Zur added: "In this case we were fortunate that he detonated himself in an enclosed area, and therefore the damage in the area is smaller, but we still had a number of wounded."
According to Zur, forces are currently pursuing a vehicle seen fleeing the area.
Meanwhile, police closed off all roads around the central bus station in the wake of the attack. Police also boosted their deployment across the country and are screening suspicious vehicles at the entrances to cities. Police presence at crowed concentrations was also boosted.
Security forces are also looking into the route taken by the bomber. This is the first time in a year that an attacker from Nablus, which is surrounded by the IDF, carries out an attack in Israel. The last suicide bomber from Nablus carried out an attack at the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv 2004.
Police at the scene (Photo: Yaron Brenner)
Ofer, a bank employee who witnessed the attack, said that "we heard a serious blast near the cinema. A large number of ambulances arrived from all directions. The blast literally shook all the windows."
Yigal, an eyewitness from a nearby store, told Ynet: "We heard an explosion, not a particularly loud one. I saw people with blood. At first we didn't understand what was going on. But after we saw what's happening we ran away."
Meanwhile, hospital emergency lines were opened to provide information about casualties in the attack:
Ichilov hospital: 1255-133
Wolfson hospital: 1255-135
The Tel Aviv central bus station has been the scene of several terror attacks over the years. In January 2003, 23 people were murdered at the station in a double suicide bombing.
The last suicide blast in Israel occurred in Netanya, north of Tel Aviv, on December 5, 2005.
Ali Waked and Meital Yasur-Beit Or contributed to the story