By Jeffrey Heller
JERUSALEM A Palestinian rammed his truck into a group of Israeli soldiers on a popular promenade in Jerusalem on Sunday, killing four of them in an attack which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said had likely been inspired by Islamic State.It was the deadliest Palestinian attack in Jerusalem in months and targeted officer cadets as they disembarked from a bus that brought them to the Armon Hanatziv promenade which has a panoramic view of the walled Old City.The military said an officer and three officer cadets were killed and that 17 others were injured. Police said three of the dead were women.Police identified the truck driver as a Palestinian from Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem and said he was shot dead. His uncle, Abu Ali, named him as Fadi Ahmad Hamdan Qunbor, 28, a father of four from the Jabel Mukabar neighbourhood.The Israeli military regularly takes soldiers on educational tours of Jerusalem, including the Armon Hanatziv vantage point.Netanyahu visited the scene and said he convened a forum of senior ministers to discuss Israel's response."We know the identity of the attacker. According to all the signs he is a supporter of Islamic State," the prime minister said.Roni Alsheich, the national police chief, told reporters he could not rule out that the driver had been motivated by a truck ramming attack in a Berlin Christmas market that killed 12 people last month.
"It is difficult to get into the head of every individual to determine what prompted him, but there is no doubt that these things do have an effect," Alsheich told reporters.In another attack claimed by Islamic State in which a truck was used to ram into crowds, nearly 90 people were killed in the French city of Nice in July.Actions inspired by Islamic State in Israel, the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem have been rare and only a few dozen Arab Israelis and Palestinians are known to have declared their sympathy with the group.A wave of Palestinian street attacks, including vehicle rammings, has largely slowed but not stopped completely since it began in October 2015 and 37 Israelis and two visiting Americans have been killed in these assaults.
At least 231 Palestinians have been killed in violence in Israel, the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the same period. Israel says at least 157 of them were assailants while others died during clashes and protests, blaming the violence on incitement by the Palestinian leadership.The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, denies that allegation, and says assailants have acted out of frustration over Israeli occupation of land Palestinians seek for a state in peace talks stalled since 2014.Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in Gaza routinely praises those who carry out street attacks, and did so on Sunday."We bless this heroic operation resisting the Israeli occupation to force it to stop its crimes and violations against our people," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Reuters.
Security camera footage showed the truck racing towards the soldiers, and then reversing into them.A security guard identified only as "A" told Channel 10 how he shot at the truck and its driver."I shot at a tyre but realised there was no point as he has many wheels, so I ran in front of the cabin and at an angle, I shot at him and emptied my magazine," he said."When I finished shooting, some of the officer cadets also took aim and also started firing."The footage showed many of the soldiers fleeing the scene as the attack took place, their rifles slung on their shoulders.As a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, the truck driver would carry an Israeli identity card and be able to move freely through all of the city. Israel considers all of Jerusalem its united capital, a stance not supported by the international community. (Reporting by Jeffrey Heller, Maayan Lubell, Ori Lewis, Mustafa Abu Ghaneyeh and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
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Updated Date: Jan 08, 2017 23:00:09 IST