'08 Tractor Rampage Ruled Drug-induced, Not Terror Attack

Abu-Tir, of Umm Tuba, a Palestinian village within Jerusalem municipal limits, drove tractor into a bus, other vehicles and into pedestrians, injuring 24 people, one of whom lost a leg.

The Israel Defense Forces will not demolish the home of the man who injured 24 people with a tractor in Jerusalem in 2008 and was shot to death at the scene.

GOC Home Front Command Yair Golan made the recent decision after an autopsy revealed that the man, Ghasan Abu-Tir, had traces of the drugs Ecstasy and Cannabis in his system.

Attack scene - Archive photo: Daniel Bar-On / Jini - 2008
Archive photo: Daniel Bar-On / Jini

The incident occurred on July 22, 2008, on King David Street in the capital. Abu-Tir, of Umm Tuba, a Palestinian village within the Jerusalem municipal limits, drove the tractor into a bus, other vehicles and into pedestrians, injuring 24 people, one of whom lost a leg.

He was shot and killed at the scene by a civilian and a Border Police officer. A Shin Bet security service investigation concluded that the incident was a terror attack, and therefore, in December 2008, Golan ordered Abu-Tir's house demolished, in accordance with emergency regulations.

The family, represented by Andre Rosenthal of the legal aid group Hamoked, petitioned against the decision, which led to the drug findings. The pathologist's report, issued by the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine, noted that Abu-Tir apparently committed the attack while under the influence of amphetamines and hashish.

Abu-Tir, who had no terrorist ties, had several criminal convictions on his record for drug possession, property crimes and illegal possession of a knife.

In August, Golan rescinded the demolition order. In a letter to the family he wrote: "Although there is quite some doubt regarding the claim that this was not an attack motivated by nationalism, it was decided, in fairness and considering that drugs were found in his blood and urine, to abstain from carrying out the demolition order."

MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al ) said: "The new information should be investigated. If it had been a Jew who had taken drugs, the case would have been handled differently."

Tibi also questioned why the information had not come to light beforehand. However, MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union ) said: "We never heard about people under the influence of Cannabis going on murderous sprees on a tractor. The delay [of the order] by GOC Home Front Command is a miserable surrender to Israel's enemies. The rule of law should not appear drugged. The demolition order should be carried out immediately."