'The whole thing lasted a minute,' say attack witnesses
Witnesses to the bulldozer rampage in downtown Jerusalem yesterday described the speed with which the driver was neutralized, and theorized whether the attack's timing was related to U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama's pending visit.
Moshe Feiglin, head of the right-wing Jewish Leadership movement, happened to be crossing King David Street at the time. "Everything was really quick. People started running toward him and so did I," Feiglin said. "A guy I know from Susya was the first to shoot, and immediately after him a Border Police officer arrived and finished the story with an M-16 and plenty of bullets. The whole thing lasted about half a minute. The policeman shot him from really close range, a meter and half or thereabouts."
Avi Levy, the driver of the No. 13 bus targeted by the terrorist, described the harrowing chase by the bulldozer: "He hit the back right wheel of the bus with his shovel. I didn't understand at first what was happening. There was nothing in the mirror. Only after I looked in the right side-view mirror, I saw him turn around, make a U-turn, and repeatedly smash the shovel into the passenger windows on the left-hand side.
"Then he approached my window, shattered it, and tried to hit my head. I was staring at death. I don't know how, but I managed to swerve quickly to the right, onto Mapu Street, and give him the slip. Only after it was all over did I realize I had saved a lot of lives. The passengers were frightened, but gradually calmed down. With God's help, except for slight injuries, everyone is fine."
Within minutes of the attack, many locals and tourists on King David Street were debating whether the terrorist's actions were indeed inspired by the prominent visitor, or if it was simply an imitation of a similar incident two weeks ago.
The Cairo-based Middle East correspondent for a Japanese television station had come to Jerusalem to cover the visit of U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama. But yesterday afternoon, before the senator arrived, the reporter's crew found themselves pointing cameras at a bashed-up SUV damaged in yesterday's terror attack, just steps from the hotel where Obama was scheduled to spend the night. The incident was connected to the Obama visit, the reporter stated with certainty.
An American in Israel for a business trip disagreed.
"I don't think the terrorist cares who sleeps here tonight, all he wanted to do is kill Jews," said New Yorker Paul Packer, who is staying at an apartment near the attack site. Watching the scene being cleared, he added, "I think they should leave the truck here so Obama can see what Jews and Israelis are facing every day."
"It was just a matter of time until there was a copycat," said James Kennedy, a student at Tufts University in Boston, who is on a program at Hebrew University. His friend Jacob Abolafia believes the location of the attack was no accident: "We're between the King David and the Inbal Hotel, where all the important people stay. Maybe there was a message that the terrorist wanted to send us."