Truck-ramming attack kills 4 Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem

January 8, 2017 | By | Reply More

A Palestinian truck driver on Sunday rammed his vehicle into a crowd of Israeli soldiers at a popular Jerusalem tourist spot, killing four people and wounding 17 others in the deadliest single attack of more than a year of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

israeli soldiersThe attack came at a time of heightened tensions in Jerusalem, where Palestinians have warned of dire consequences if incoming President Donald Trump follows through on his promise to move the U.S. Embassy to the city. The atmosphere among Israelis is also charged following last week’s manslaughter conviction of an Israeli soldier who fatally shot a wounded Palestinian attacker.

Visiting the attack site, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there was strong evidence the attacker was a supporter of the Islamic State group and suggested a link to previous vehicle attacks in Europe.

“We know that there is a sequence of terror attacks. There definitely could be a connection between them, from France to Berlin and now Jerusalem,” he said.

The attacker, identified as 28-year-old Fadi Qunbar, came from the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber in east Jerusalem — located near the attack site.

The neighborhood, home to many other past attackers, has sporadically experienced violent clashes between residents and Israeli security forces. Netanyahu ordered a closure of the neighborhood. Israeli media said his Security Cabinet decided to destroy the attacker’s home and withhold the release of his body.

Relatives and neighbors said Qunbar, a father of four, espoused an ultra-conservative version of Islam, known as Salafism, and had no known ties to militant groups. Salafism is split into peaceful and violent streams, with the latter promoting ideas that are close to those of IS.

A woman who identified herself as Qunbar’s sister told journalists that his wife had asked him to come home for lunch, but that he turned her down because he “had work to do.” She said police had arrested the attacker’s parents, wife and two brothers.

The attack occurred along a popular overlook in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood that provides a sweeping vista of the city.

The Israeli military said the soldiers had been participating in an educational trip. It said three cadets and an officer were killed, and 17 others were wounded. Three of the dead, including the officer, were female.

Security camera footage broadcast on Israeli TV stations showed the truck barreling at a high speed into a crowd of soldiers gathered next to a bus.

The U.S. State Department condemned the attack “in the strongest possible terms.” The European Union also condemned the attack and “any praise or incitement for terrorist attacks.”

Israel claims the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as the capital of a future state.

On Friday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, invited Trump to visit the West Bank and urged him not to move the embassy.

Abbas said that doing so would mark a “red line that we don’t accept.” He promised to use all “diplomatic and political tools” to fight any such move, but ruled out a violent response, saying “we renounce terrorism.”

Since September 2015, Palestinian attackers have killed 40 Israelis and two visiting Americans in knifings, shootings and car rammings.

The toll from Sunday’s attack matched that of the deadliest previous assault— the Tel Aviv shooting last June carried out by a pair of gunmen at a popular tourist spot.

Israel says most of the Palestinians killed over the past 16 months were attackers. The Palestinians and rights groups say Israel has at times used excessive force.

Israel says the violence is driven by Palestinian incitement, while Palestinians say it’s the result of nearly 50 years of Israeli occupation and dwindling hopes for an independent state. The violence has slowed in recent months.

Extremists have threatened the military chief and the judges who convicted the soldier, while other critics have accused the army of abandoning a soldier on the battlefield and said the decision would make soldiers think twice before pulling the trigger in combat situations.

Eytan Rund, a tour guide who said he shot Sunday’s attacker, said the many soldiers in the area were slow to respond, blaming their “hesitation” on last week’s verdict.

The army later released a video of an unidentified soldier who said that he had rushed to the truck, loaded his gun and opened fire as soon as it was clear the incident was an attack.

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Category: Arab uprising

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