A Palestinian man from East Jerusalem driving an excavator killed a pedestrian and hit a bus on Monday, in what is believed to be the first terror attack in Israel since Operation Protective Edge began 28 days ago.
The driver, identified as Muhammed Naif el-Ja’abis from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, was shot dead at the scene by police and a prisons service officer who happened to be nearby when the incident occurred.
Ja’bbis reportedly slammed the excavator into the bus, flipping it over onto the sidewalk and injuring the bus driver and four passengers.
At the moment, it remains unclear if Ja’bbis was affiliated with any terror organization or if he acted alone. Speaking at the scene on Monday, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, whose ministry is in charge of the Israel Police, said that Ja’bbis was known to Israeli security services from a prior incident, but did not elaborate.
Known in Hebrew as “piguei drisa,” loosely-translated as ramming or trampling attacks, such incidents have been relatively common in recent years. In July 2008, there were two incidents in Jerusalem in which Palestinian men drove bulldozers and similar vehicles into buses, cars, and pedestrians. Three people were killed in total and the driver was shot dead in both incidents.
On Nakba Day in 2011, a young Arab man from Kfar Qasm in central Israel intentionally plowed into several vehicles on a street in south Tel Aviv, killing one man and injuring more than 15 people.
Around an hour after the fatal attack on Shmuel Hanavi street, a gunman opened fire on an IDF soldier on a sidewalk in East Jerusalem, seriously wounding him, as the city found itself potentially facing two terror attacks in the span of a single afternoon.
Jerusalem Police Chief Yossi Pariente said that the approximately 20-year-old soldier had been shot at close range multiple times by a man who approached him on foot and opened fire with a pistol, before running to a waiting scooter or motorcycle and fleeing towards the Wadi Joz neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Pariente said officers from the Border Patrol and the Police YAMAM anti-terror unit are combing the area looking for the assailant.
Pariente added that based on information they gathered from the soldier and his identity, they believe there is a very high chance the shooting was a terror attack and not criminal in nature.
A few hours after the second attack, Tel Aviv police said that District Commander Bentzi Sau had ordered increased patrols because of the security situation and called on the public to increase their awareness of anything out of the ordinary.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Monday called on all residents of the city and Israel as a whole to “show greater awareness, but not interrupt your routine. We cannot give the terrorists this prize.”
Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, Israel Police have said across the country they are focused on three main objectives: helping the home front deal with rocket attacks, policing riots and public disturbances in the Arab sector, and preventing terror attacks directed at Israeli citizens on both sides of the Green Line.
Since the operation started there have been two separate incidents in which Palestinian men were caught at checkpoints leading from the West Bank to Israel reportedly carrying bombs and gas canisters rigged with explosives. In both instances police say they believe the bombs were meant for terror attacks inside the Green Line.