Palestinian runs amok with bulldozer in street, Three killed, 44 hurt
This terrorist attack will further escalate tension between two feuding sides and can also affect the peace talks.
A Palestinian construction worker killed three people when he drove a large bulldozer into oncoming traffic on a busy Jerusalem street yesterday, crushing cars and overturning a bus in what Israeli police said was a terrorist attack. At least 44 others were injured: drivers in cars, pedestrians and passengers in the bus that was driving up Jaffa Road, in west Jerusalem, at the time of the incident.
Police said a 30-year-old Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem seized control of the Caterpillar bulldozer shortly after midday and drove several hundred metres down the street before he was overpowered by policemen and private security guards and eventually shot dead.
Three Palestinian militant groups claimed responsibility for the killings, but there was no confirmation that the attack had been organised in advance.
Yossi Levi, 34, who stopped his car and ran to help the injured, said: "We saw the tractor start to drive towards the first car and then it ran it over," he said. "He didn't stop and went on towards other vehicles. When he hit the first car we knew something was wrong, when he hit the second we figured it was an attack and by the time he hit the third we were sure. Drivers got out of their cars and ran."
At least one of the dead was a woman driver who was crushed inside her car. As the bulldozer careered down the street the driver had the shovel raised and used it to collide into the crowded bus, knocking it on to its side. The injured were pulled free through the bus's smashed windscreen.
Levi said he and others ran towards the bulldozer, shouting and throwing stones. "We were chasing it and looking for someone with a weapon who could stop it," he said.
He saw a policeman appear to overpower the driver and bring the bulldozer to a halt. "The policeman said he had the driver under control, but I told the policeman: 'Shoot him. Shoot him.' Many people were screaming next to me: 'Shoot him.' The policeman had his handgun out, but he didn't shoot."
The bulldozer then began to lurch down the street again before another policeman jumped into the cab and fired several bullets, killing the driver and dumping his body on the road.
Eli Mizrahi, an officer in a special anti-terror unit, said he and his partner sped to the scene on a motorcycle from the nearby Mahane Yehuda market. An off-duty soldier had just shot the attacker, but not killed him. "I ran up the stairs [of the bulldozer] and, when he was still driving like crazy and trying to harm civilians, I fired at him twice more and, that's it, he was liquidated," Mizrahi told reporters.
Afterwards a line of flattened cars and debris lay along the stretch of road, next to the large construction site for a new train service, where the bulldozer had originally been working.
Dudi Cohen, Israel's police chief, said the attacker appeared to be acting alone. "It looks as if it was a spontaneous act," he said. Last night five Israeli military vehicles were parked outside the attacker's two-storey home. He was identified as Hussam Dwikat and neighbours said he had no apparent links to militant groups.
The incident was the first major attack in Jerusalem since March, when a gunman walked into a Jewish seminary and shot eight students dead. Although the attack is unlikely to derail the already fragile peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, it will probably lead to more restrictions on Palestinians living in Jerusalem and working in the city and across Israel.