4 dead as Palestinian plows truck into Israeli soldiers
JERUSALEM (3rd UPDATE) – A Palestinian rammed a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers visiting a popular tourist spot in Jerusalem on Sunday, January 8, killing 4 and wounding 17 others, authorities said.
The driver was also killed at the location overlooking holy sites in the Old City such as the Dome of the Rock and providing one of the most spectacular views of Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alleged the attacker "supported" the Islamic State group, though he provided no details on what led to the finding.
Chaos broke out at the scene when the truck ploughed through the crowd, with hundreds of soldiers having arrived there as part of a tour for troops about the history of Jerusalem.
"A lone terrorist drove his truck into a group of soldiers standing on the side of the road," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told reporters at the scene.
"They got off the bus, and as they were getting off the bus and getting organized, he took advantage."
After claims from some that soldiers were slow to react, Israel's military distributed a video of one of its troops saying he shot after realizing it was not an accident.
"An investigation is underway but this attack lasted several seconds and once the soldiers understood that it was an attack, they fired in the direction of the vehicle," army spokesman Moti Almoz said in a statement.
Multiple bullet holes could be seen in the windshield of the truck.
Israel's military said 4 soldiers were killed and 17 wounded. Medics reported that 3 of the dead were women, while all 4 were in their 20s.
Video said to be of the incident being shared online shows a flatbed truck with a crane in the rear drive through a group of soldiers standing next to a bus.
The driver then pulls off to the side and tries to reverse back towards where the soldiers were hit before the truck eventually comes to a stop.
'Orders and screaming'
Ambulances rushed to the location and video showed visitors, including soldiers, running for cover as the incident began. Bodies were later covered in sheets.
"I heard my soldiers screaming and shouting," said one of the tour guides, Lea Schreiber.
"I saw a truck that went on the side of the road. Soldiers starting shooting... There were orders and screaming everywhere. They told them to hide behind the wall because there was fear of another attack."
Netanyahu later visited the scene.
"We know the identity of the assailant, who according to all indications supported ISIS," he said in a statement released by his office.
Fawzi Barhum, a spokesman for Islamist movement Hamas which runs the Gaza Strip, saluted the attack, calling it "heroic and brave."
Palestinian security officials said the driver was a Palestinian in his late 20s from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal Mukaber, located close to the scene. Palestinian media named him as Fadi Al-Qanbar.
Rosenfeld said it was not yet clear if the attack had been planned earlier or was spontaneous.
It occurred in what was formerly designated a no-man's land between mainly Palestinian east and Israeli-dominated west Jerusalem, near UN headquarters at a spot that leads to a promenade with picturesque views.
Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem and Palestinian neighborhoods are located nearby.
The European Union condemned the attack, as did the UN envoy for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov.
"It is reprehensible that some choose to glorify such acts which undermine the possibility of a peaceful future for both Palestinians and Israelis," he said.
"There is nothing heroic in such actions."
A wave of Palestinian knife, gun, and car-ramming attacks broke out in October 2015, but the violence had greatly subsided in recent months.
Since October 2015, 247 Palestinians, 40 Israelis, two Americans, a Jordanian, an Eritrean, and a Sudanese have been killed, according to an AFP count.
Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out attacks, according to Israeli authorities.
Others were shot dead during protests or clashes, while some died in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.
Many analysts say Palestinian frustration with the Israeli occupation and settlement-building in the West Bank, comatose peace efforts, and their own fractured leadership have helped feed the unrest.
Israel says incitement by Palestinian leaders and media is a leading cause.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the most difficult issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinians see east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967 and later annexed, as the capital of their future state.
Israel views the whole city as its capital.
US President-elect Donald Trump recently stirred fresh controversy over Jerusalem's status by vowing to break with years of precedent and move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Last week, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas warned that doing so would cross a "red line" and could jeopardize peace prospects. – Rappler.com