Jewish community leaders have expressed outrage after a Palestinian has rammed his truck into a group of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem, killing four and wounding 15 others.
Sir Mick Davis, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, issued a statement, offering condolences to the families and outlining how terrorists target any Israelis, whether civilian or military.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured and the families of those who lost their lives in this brutal attack today in Jerusalem,” he said.
“Tragically we have seen so much terror these past months and years and it should be clear to all that to terrorists there is no difference between soldiers and civilians, men and women or adults and children. Their only goal is to spread terror and cause human tragedy.”
He added: “For this to happen in Jerusalem, so close to the Old City, is a particular reminder of the dangers Israelis are exposed to day in, day out. None of us should have to face the constant threat of terrorism and we condemn those who support and celebrate acts of terrorism of this nature.”
Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood MP said: “I condemn the horrific terrorist attack… My thoughts are with the victims and their families. There can be absolutely no justification for terrorism.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the driver was a supporter of the Islamic State group, and suggested the attack was inspired by similar assaults in Europe.
“We know the identity of the attacker. According to all the signs, he was a supporter of the Islamic State,” he said at the attack site. “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.”
Security camera footage shown on Israeli Channel 2 TV showed the lorry driving at high speed off the road and into the crowd of people in the Armon Hanatziv neighbourhood.
The truck is seen reversing quickly, apparently trying to crush more people, before the driver was shot dead.
“There was no sense in that reverse,” Leah Schreiber, a witness, told reporters. “He drove backward to crush more people. That was really clear.”
While Israel has arrested several Palestinians accused of travelling to Syria to fight with the group, IS is not known to have a presence in Israel or the Palestinian areas. Israel has said two gunmen who carried out a deadly shooting in Tel Aviv last June were inspired by IS, but not members.
Mr Netanyahu said Israel had blockaded Jabel Mukaber, the nearby Palestinian neighbourhood in east Jerusalem where the attacker lived. He said Israel was planning other steps but did not elaborate.
He said the dead were all soldiers – three women and a man. Israel‘s national rescue service said one of the 15 wounded was in a serious condition.
The attack matched the deadliest in a more than year-long wave of Palestinian shooting, stabbing and vehicle attacks against Israelis. The two gunmen in last June’s attack in Tel Aviv also killed four people, who were eating dinner at a popular tourist spot.
Since September 2015, Palestinian attackers have killed 40 Israelis and two visiting Americans. During that time, 230 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire.
The violence has slowed of late but tensions have been rising since President-elect Donald Trump promised to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Palestinians claim Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital, and have warned that moving the embassy would cross a “red line” and undermine negotiations over one of the most sensitive issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The atmosphere in Israel has also been charged following the manslaughter conviction last week of an Israeli soldier who fatally shot a Palestinian attacker who had already been badly wounded and was lying on the ground.
Eytan Rund, a tour guide who said he shot the attacker on Sunday, said the many soldiers in the area were slow to respond. He said he believed the “hesitation” was connected to last week’s verdict.
During the past year and a half of violence, Israel has said most of the Palestinians killed were attackers while the rest died in clashes. Sunday’s incident marks the first Israeli deaths in three months.
Hamas praised the assault but stopped short of taking responsibility. Terrorist spokesman Abdul-Latif Qanou called it a “heroic” act and encouraged other Palestinians to do the same and “escalate the resistance”.
He said the attack proves the wave of Palestinian violence has not ended, despite a recent lull. “It may be quiet, it may linger, but it will never end,” he said.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called on residents to be wary but carry on with their everyday life.
“Unfortunately, there is no limit to the cruelty of terrorists who spare no means in killing Jews and disrupting their way of life,” he said. “Those who incite and support terror must pay a heavy price.”
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