12 Israelis Wounded in Stabbing Attack on Tel Aviv Bus

Three in serious condition; assailant, West Bank male who entered Israel illegally, was shot in the leg; Hamas official hails 'bold, heroic act'; Netanyahu blames PA for attack, Lieberman blames Palestinian and Israeli Arab leadership.

The scene of the stabbing attack in Tel Aviv, January 21, 2015.
The scene of the stabbing attack in Tel Aviv, January 21, 2015. Moti Milrod

12 Israelis were wounded in a stabbing attack on a Tel Aviv bus on Wednesday morning, three of them seriously. 

The assailant is named Hamza Mohammed Hasan Matrouk, a 23-year-old male from the West Bank city of Tul Karm who entered Israel illegally, was shot in the leg by an Israel Prison Service officer on Hamasger Street, near the scene of the incident. After being taken into custody, Matrouk was taken to the hospital for treatment and further police and Shin Bet questioning.

Palestinian sources say he does not belong to any group or organization. 

The attack took place on Bus number 40 on Menachem Begin Road, a major thoroughfare in Tel Aviv, near the Ma'ariv Bridge. Three other people were moderately wounded, and five of the casualties were in light condition, according to Magen David Adom emergency services. A further five were suffering from shock. 

The stabbing is being treated as a "terror attack," Israel Police foreign press spokesman Micky Rosenfeld wrote on Twitter.

According to a preliminary investigation, the assailant got to Tel Aviv on Wednesday morning and boarded the bus at the Old Central Bus Station, a short distance from the scene of the attack. After the bus passed two stops and more passengers got on, the attacker took out a knife and started stabbing people. Given that the perpetrator bought the knife in the West Bank, he will be brought before a military court in Ariel. As he is still in hospital with the wound to his leg, he wasn't taken to court on Wednesday. His detention will be extended by 96 hours.   

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the Palestinian Authority for the attack, saying it was a "direct result of the Palestinian Authority's venomous incitement against the Jews and their state. The same terror tries to hurt us in Paris, Brussels and everywhere," he said. 

 

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile, condemned all the Palestinian and Israeli Arab leadership, stating that those behind the attack "stand behind the Rahat riots," and Jerusalem attacks: Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], [Ismail] Haniyeh, Raed Saleh, Haneen Zoabi, Ahmed Tibi and their partners. It's all part of the same process of undermining Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state."

Habayit Hayehudi leader Economy Minister Naftali Bennett also blamed Abbas for the attack. Labor leader Isaac Herzog, meanwhile, said that Israelis don't feel safe in Israel today. 

Izzat al-Risheq, a member of Hamas' political bureau, described the attack as a "heroic act."

"The attack carried out this morning is a bold, heroic act and a natural response to the crimes of the occupation and terrorism against the Palestinian people."
 

An Israeli police officer secures the scene after a stabbing in Tel Aviv, January 21, 2015. (Credit: AP)

One of the serious casualties, two of the moderate casualties and three of the light casualties were evacuated to Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. Meanwhile, two people in serious condition, two in moderate condition, and two in light condition, were evacuated to Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital. Two people were also being treated there for shock. 

Two remain in serious-but-stable condition in Ichilov's intensive care unit. Two remain in the trauma unit in moderate condition, while the two hospitalized in light condition have been released.

Dr. Rafi Strugo, medical director of Magen David Adom services, said the wounded had "deep stab wounds and bleeding, especially in the chest, back and neck." He added that they were scattered within a radius of about 50 meters from the bus. "Those who were capable of running fled after being stabbed."

"When I got to Yitzhak Sadeh St., civilians signaled for me to stop and led me to a nearby parking lot," Magen David Adom emergency responder Yiftah Levy said.

"When I arrived, I saw a woman of about 60-years-old lying in pain on the ground, suffering from stab wounds to the chest and back - she had been on the bus. When she noticed she was injured, she ran about a kilometer before collapsing on Yitzhak Sadeh Street, where we gave her medical treatment. She was evacuated to Tel Hashomer in moderate-but-stable condition." 

The Israel Prison Service officer who stopped the assailant was in the area by chance, on the way to a nearby court. "We were on an escort mission to [a nearby] courthouse and identified a large gathering of people crying out for help on Ma'ariv Bridge," Benny Botroshveli of the Israel Prison Services' Nachson Unit said.

When they realized it was a terror attack, he said, "Me and my team of three others identified the terrorist and chased after him. The terrorist collapsed after we shot at his legs. We then shackled him and awaited the arrival of police officers."

After the end of the Gaza war in summer 2014, Israel saw heightened tensions and clashes in Jerusalem, with a series of lone-wolf terror attacks against Israelis in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, including an attack on a synagogue in Har Nof, in which five people were killed. 

Two weeks ago, a young Jewish man in Jerusalem was stabbed in the back with a screwdriver, apparently by a Arab man who fled the scene. 

In December 2014, the Shin Bet security service announced that they arrested a Palestinian woman who was allegedly planning to commit a suicide attack in Tel Aviv using a belt fitted with explosives.

The month prior, an Israel Defense Forces soldier was stabbed and killed in a terror attack near the Haganah train station in south Tel Aviv.