Israeli Border Policewoman Killed, Another Wounded in Jerusalem Attack

The scope of the attack at the Old City's Damascus Gate marks an escalation in violence in the terror wave in the capital, police say.

Scene of a stabbing attack near Jerusalem's Damascus Gate on Wednesday February 3, 2016.
Midabrim Communications

A border policewoman was killed on Wednesday in a shooting and stabbing attack at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. Another border policewoman suffered serious injuries. The scope of the attack marks an escalation in the terror wave in the capital, police said.

Hadar Cohen, 19, a combatant in training, was fatally wounded when three terrorists armed with guns, knives and explosive charges attacked a Border Patrol detail. She died soon after being taken to Hadassah Hospital at Mount Scopus.

Police said the Border Police patrol – an officer and two newly recruited female combatants who hadn’t completed their training – saw two of the terrorists sitting on a bench near Damascus Gate and asked them to identify themselves.

One terrorist handed over his ID card, while the other drew his gun and fired at the policewomen. The border police shot and killed the two assailants. At this point the third gunman approached and opened fire at the detail, which shot and killed him as well.

Security camera footage shows that Cohen fired at the terrorists before she was shot in the back by the third, who came up from behind her.

The attack marked an escalation over previous attacks in Jerusalem in recent months. So far most of the assaults in the city were carried out by lone assailants with a knife or scissors. In some cases they were carried out by two people together. Most of the attackers were minors who lived in the city and the attacks were spontaneous, police sources said.

After the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a meeting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, a representative of the Shin Bet security service and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.

A senior security official said Israel was blockading Qabatiya, the hometown of the three Palestinian attackers, near Jenin in the northern West Bank. He said the IDF was rounding people up in the township and sending reinforcements to the region.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, the three assailants, ages 20 and 21, were shot dead immediately after the attack. Defense establishment sources said at this stage it was impossible to say if they had belonged to a militant organization. One of them was banned from entering Israel for security reasons.

The police said several “Carlo guns,” a homemade imitation of Carl Gustav guns produced in the West Bank, were found at the site. The three assailants are believed to have entered Jerusalem with the guns, and security forces are checking how they managed to do so and whether they received assistance.

Jerusalem Deputy Police Commander Avshalom Peled said the attack seems to have been planned. “A preliminary investigation shows the border policemen prevented a much worse attack,” he said.

“The assumption is that the Border Police combatants weren’t the assailants’ target,” he said, noting that the terrorists opened fire at them after being approached and asked for their ID.

The officer of the Border Police detail said he saw two men dressed in coats sitting on a bench. He said they looked frightened and he asked them for their ID cards. At this stage one of them stood up, drew a gun from his coat and struck the officer’s head.

“I took a step back, saw he was aiming at me and was going to pull the trigger. I took two steps back, cocked my revolver and fired a bullet at him. Then I turned and saw someone with a knife stabbing [the border policewoman who survived] and I shot him. Then I heard shots, turned around and saw another terrorist shooting,” he said.

At this stage a police officer noticed what was going on and fired at the third terrorist.

“I heard shouts and saw people running eastward,” the police officer said. “I ran with them and saw a man in a black shirt taking out an improvised weapon. I drew my gun and we shot him from three sides until he was dead.”

President Reuven Rivlin said of the attack, “When I came out of a visit to IDF’s Military Intelligence, I received reports that two combatants had been wounded in Jerusalem... With all of Israel I pray for their recovery and thank the Border Police men and women who guard the walls of Jerusalem.”