Israeli security forces have arrested Hamas militants accused in a bombing that killed a British woman and wounded dozens of civilians earlier this year, the country's Shin Bet security service announced Wednesday.
The announcement said the militant accused of constructing the bomb, a 36-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank, was arrested along with a 23-year-old Palestinian from Jerusalem accused of planting it next to a busy bus stop in the city on March 23.
The bomb killed Mary Jean Gardner, a 59-year-old British tourist studying in Jerusalem, and injured two dozen others, including five Americans.
The man accused of planting the bomb was in possession of a second explosive device intended for use by a suicide bomber in an attack planned for Aug. 21, according to the Shin Bet statement. The new bomb was seized a day before the planned attack and the would-be suicide bomber, a 20-year-old Palestinian from Hebron, was caught two days later.
The statement said that in recent months the Shin Bet had arrested "dozens" of suspected militants who belonged to Hamas networks in Jerusalem and the West Bank and operated in coordination with Hamas leaders in Gaza and Syria. Thirteen were identified in the press release.
A spokesman for the Hamas military wing in Gaza had no immediate comment.
In the West Bank city of Hebron, Ali Kawasmeh, the father of Hussein Kawasmeh, accused of constructing the bomb, said his son was innocent and that Israel was "trying to punish his family." He said another son had died as a Hamas suicide bomber, two others had been killed by the military and five others were in Israeli prisons.
The cities of the West Bank are governed by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority under Israel's overall security control.
Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip since seizing power there from the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Militants in the territory now possess rockets capable of striking across most of southern Israel.
Late Wednesday, a militant from the Islamic Jihad faction was killed by an explosion in a car in central Gaza, according to a spokesman for the group, Abu Ahmad, and hospital officials in the town of Deir el-Balah. Another militant in the car was badly wounded.
Islamic Jihad said the car was hit by an Israeli airstrike. The Israeli military denied involvement.
The Palestinian Authority, frustrated by prolonged deadlock in peace talks and capitalizing on international impatience with Israel's current hardline government, is moving ahead with a plan to seek recognition of a state at the United Nations later this month. The move is opposed by Israel and the U.S., who say a Palestinian state should be created through negotiations.
On Wednesday, two senior White House envoys met with Palestinian officials and tried to persuade them to drop the plan and instead resume peace talks.
A senior Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information, said the American envoys did not raise new proposals that would enable talks to resume.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the U.N. bid "misguided" and said the "only path" to the creation of a Palestinian state was negotiations.
"You can say whatever you want in the U.N, it's not going to lead to that outcome, and it could exacerbate tensions in the region, exacerbate tensions between the parties and make it harder to get back to the talks," she said.