Two Israeli Police Officers Lightly Wounded in Suspected East Jerusalem Terror Attack

Palestinian drives vehicle into crowd in East Jerusalem's A-tur neighborhood.

United Hatzalah emergency services

Two members of the Border Police were lightly to moderately wounded Wednesday morning when a Palestinian drove his car into them in Jerusalem. Police say the incident was a terror attack.

The victims, a man and a woman, both around 20 years old, were evacuated to the hospital for treatment and released a few hours later. The attack took place in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur, on the Mount of Olives.

The assailant was identified as Omran Abu Dheim, 41, of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal Mukkaber. He was shot by another border policemen present at the scene and died of his wounds shortly afterward. 

Police noted that his uncle was the perpetrator of a 2008 shooting attack at Jerusalem’s Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva. That attack killed eight people, most of them high-school students.

Jerusalem police chief Moshe Edri said Wednesday's incident was “unequivocally a terror attack. [The driver of] a vehicle coming from the north identified the policemen and, in an instantaneous decision, swerved toward them and plowed into them. The terrorist tried to run, and the policemen, as expected of them, shot him.  We had no [prior] information and no advance warning.”

But Abu Dheim’s family rejected the claim that this was a deliberate attack, noting that he was a father of three and had been en route to visit a relative. They said he is not involved in politics in any way and would have no reason to carry out such an attack. 

One relative told Haaretz the family is convinced Abu Dheim was shot and killed for no reason. The relative demanded that the incident be thoroughly investigated, including by reviewing footage from security cameras in the area.

Police said in a statement that the border policemen had been doing routine security work at the site when a car traveling from the direction of Augusta Victoria Hospital suddenly swerved out of its lane and into them.

This is the third attack in the greater Jerusalem area of the last 10 days. Last Thursday, a car plowed into a group of people standing at the entrance to the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut, in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. That attacked wounded four people, one of them seriously. Three days earlier, an Israeli was moderately wounded when a Palestinian stabbed him near the settlement of Mishor Adumim.

Over the past six months, there have been 13 attacks in Jerusalem and its environs, with the weapons of choice generally being cars or knives. The vast majority of these attacks were carried out by “lone wolf” terrorists, meaning people who have no backing from any terrorist organization and generally commit their attacks spontaneously rather than planning them in advance. Attacks of this kind are very hard for the security services to thwart. 

In some cases, terrorist organizations claimed responsibility for the attacks after the fact. But in practice, they had no part in carrying them out, or even any advance knowledge of them.