By ISABEL DEBRE
JERUSALEM (AP) — A Palestinian plowed a car into a crowded bus stop in east Jerusalem on Friday, killing two people, including a six-year-old, and injuring five others before being shot and killed, Israeli police and medics said, the latest escalation as violence grips the contested capital.
The car-ramming took place in Ramot, a Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem. Tensions have soared in the Israeli-annexed eastern half of the city, following a Palestinian shooting attack outside a synagogue on Jan. 27 that killed seven people in the deadliest attack in Jerusalem in over a decade.
The Israeli rescue service identified the two killed as a six-year-old boy and a man in his 20s. It said medics were treating five injured, including an eight-year-old child in critical condition undergoing CPR. Others, ages ranging from 10 to 40, were in moderate to serious condition. They had been waiting at the bus stop before the car came crashing to a stop, police said.
“It was a shocking scene,” said paramedic Lishai Shemesh who happened to be driving by at the time of the attack. “ I was in the car with my wife and children and noticed a car driving fast into the bus stop and crushing the people who were waiting there.
An off-duty detective shot and killed the suspected attacker at the scene, police added, declining to immediately identify him. Israel’s hard-line national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, said the suspected assailant was from east Jerusalem. Speaking from the scene of the suspected attack, he ordered police to set up checkpoints around the driver’s neighborhood of Issawiya to “check every vehicle” and “create a full blockade.”
The Islamic militant groups Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, praised the bloody rampage but did not immediately claim responsibility. Footage from the scene showed police and paramedics swarming a mangled blue Mazda that had slammed into the bus stop. Bodies lay strewn along the way.
Israel’s largely ceremonial president, Isaac Herzog, expressed shock and offered condolences to the families of the victims. “Our hearts are pained by the terrible news,” he said.
Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians seek east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as a capital of their future state.
Hostilities have escalated in east Jerusalem and the West Bank since Israel stepped up raids in the occupied territory last spring, following a series of deadly Palestinian attacks within Israel.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 2022, making it the deadliest year in those territories since 2004, according to leading Israeli rights group B’Tselem. Last year, 30 people were killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis.
So far this year, 43 Palestinians have been killed, according to a count by The Associated Press — 10 of them in a gunfight last month during an army raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank.
Israel’s new far-right government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, had accused the previous government of inaction in the face of a deadly wave of Palestinian assaults last year, stirring questions about its stance toward the Palestinians at this time of heightened tension.
Netanyahu’s office said he dispatched more police forces to the area and directed they carry out arrests. He and Ben-Gvir also called for the immediate sealing of the assailant’s home ahead of its planned demolition.
Israel defends such home demolitions of Palestinian attackers’ family homes as a deterrent meant to prevent future attacks. But human rights groups criticize the practice as collective punishment, prohibited by international law, leaving relatives homeless who had nothing to do with the attack.
The new hard-line government has announced its intention to accelerate decades-old policy, sealing the family homes of two attackers in east Jerusalem following a pair of shootings last month.
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.