Fourteen people were wounded, including an infant still in critical condition, when a Palestinian from East Jerusalem plowed his car into a large group of people waiting at a bus stop at the entrance to Jerusalem Monday afternoon.
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The assailant, Abed Almohsin Hassoneh, 21, from Beit Hanina was shot and killed at the scene while still in his car. An axe was found in the vehicle.
The attack occurred at about 3 P.M., when Hassoneh drove his car at high speed into a crowd of people at a bus stop on Herzl Boulevard, not far from the city’s Chords Bridge. Paramedics at the scene initially said the woman and the 15-month-old boy were in moderate condition, with injuries to their limbs, while the other 12 were lightly wounded. But Shaare Zedek Medical Center later reported that the baby’s condition had deteriorated badly, and he was now unconscious and on respiratory support.
Jerusalem police said a member of the security services, a security guard and a civilian who were at the scene all shot at the Hassoneh, killing him before he managed to get out in his car. Police later found an axe in his Mazda.
“We were standing on the other side of the street when I heard gunfire and immediately rushed across,” said Masha Eichel, a paramedic who was on the scene when the incident took place. “I saw a car on the sidewalk right next to the bus stop; several people were lying on the ground bleeding.”
After the attack, Netanyahu convened an emergency meeting with Barkat, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz.
The Prime Minister’s Office said that during this meeting, Netanyahu ordered protective barriers installed at hundreds of Jerusalem bus stops, based on a list to be drafted by the police and the Transportation Ministry.
Barkat said the municipality has put together a plan to fortify hundreds of stops in “high-risk” areas in the city. He put the cost of the project at about two million shekels ($519,000) and said the plan could be implemented in a month’s time.
Monday's attack was just the latest in a spate of similar attacks in recent months. The last car-ramming attack occurred eight days earlier, when a terrorist drove his car into a young man on Jerusalem’s Yirmiyahu Street and then got out and stabbed a policeman. He was shot by a soldier who chanced to get off the bus at a nearby stop.
There was also a spate of car-rammings by Palestinians in October and November of 2014, which mainly targeted people waiting at Jerusalem’s light-rail stops.
In Hebron, where Hassoneh’s family originates, his relatives set up a mourning tent for him.
His uncle told Haaretz that the family has no idea what actually happened Monday, but that Israeli security forces had interrogated Hassoneh’s father and several other relatives about the incident.
Netanyahu commented on the attack at the start of Monday's Likud faction meeting, wishing all the victims a speedy recovery.
“I want to praise the actions of civilians, policemen, soldiers and members of the security services over the past few months,” he added. “Their swift actions have saved lives and prevented major disasters time after time.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also commented on the wave of attacks Monday, speaking at the start of a conference against corruption in Ramallah.
“The popular uprising stems from a feeling of despair that characterizes the younger generation of Palestinians, which has already despaired of the two-state solution and is dealing with checkpoints and settlements,” Abbas said.
He added that any return to negotiations would require a freeze on construction in the settlements, a release of Palestinian prisoners, a deadline for establishing a Palestinian state and an end to what he termed settler aggression. As examples of the latter, he cited last summer’s fatal arson attack on the Dawabsheh family in Duma, and also reiterated his long-standing allegations of Israeli aggression against Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces will send two reservist battalions to the West Bank next month to try to help contain the knifing and car-ramming attacks that began in September. The latest stabbing attack occurred on Sunday, when a Palestinian woman attempted to stab a settler in Hebron, but was shot and critically wounded by Israeli troops.
Last month, call-up orders were sent to four battalions of reservists, but the army decided to reduce that number to two a few days ago.
The reservists will replace conscripts on routine security assignments so the conscripts can train. They were called up as part of Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot’s effort to limit disruptions to the training of regular army units.
Last month, the army beefed up its forces near Hebron with two infantry battalions, bringing the total number operating there to nine, including Border Police units.