At Least 2 Dead as Driver Rams Bus Stop in East Jerusalem
A man on Friday drove a car into a group of people at a bus stop outside an Israeli settlement on the northern edge of East Jerusalem, killing two people including a 6-year-old child, and wounding at least five others in what the police said was a terrorist attack.
The police said a detective shot and killed the driver, who the Israeli news media reported was a Palestinian from another part of East Jerusalem.
The events were the latest in a surge of violence that has set off comparisons with aspects of a Palestinian insurgency two decades ago, known as the second Palestinian intifada, in which roughly 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians were killed.
The car ramming came two weeks after a Palestinian gunman killed seven civilians at an Israeli settlement elsewhere in East Jerusalem, and amid the deadliest period in years for Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
More than 40 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces since the start of the year, most of them in gunfights that broke out during Israeli operations to arrest Palestinian gunmen based in Palestinian areas of the West Bank.
A New Surge of Israeli-Palestinian Violence
A recent spasm of violence in Israel and the West Bank has stoked fears that tensions may further escalate.
- Balancing Act: In the aftermath of recent Palestinian attacks on Israelis, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, faced domestic calls for a harsh crackdown as well as international pressure to show moderation.
- Home Demolitions: In response to the violence surge, the Israeli government is aggressively pursuing the policy of leveling the family homes of Palestinians accused of attacks as a deterrent.
- Fueling Tensions: The roots of the violence predate Israel’s new far-right government, but analysts fear the administration’s ministers and goals will further inflame the situation.
- Raid in the West Bank: Israeli military forces killed at least five Palestinian fighters in the occupied West Bank. The deaths brought the number of Palestinians killed in the territory since the start of the year to more than 40 — the deadliest start to a year for Palestinians in the West Bank in the past decade and a half.
The escalation has prompted fears of even greater violence, because it follows the formation of new and increasingly active Palestinian armed groups and the election of a new Israeli government — the most right-wing in Israeli history — that has asserted exclusive rights over land that Palestinians hoped would form the backbone of a future Palestinian state.
The attack on Friday occurred shortly before 1:30 p.m. on a highway leading north from Jerusalem and through the occupied West Bank, outside a settlement mainly populated by highly religious Jews.
Video and photos circulated on social media after the attack showed that the car — a blue sedan — collided with a lamppost next to a bus stop, hitting several people and propelling them onto a patch of land several yards to the north. Several appeared to be lying motionless on the ground, while others were sitting upright.
The police did not immediately confirm the identities or nationalities of either the victims or the assailant.
“It was a shocking scene,” said Lishai Shemesh, a paramedic who witnessed the attack, according to a statement distributed by his emergency medical group, Magen David Adom.
“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,” Mr. Shemesh said. “We saw several victims including 6- to 8-year-old children who were lying unconscious,” he added.
The Israeli authorities, including the police, described the events as a terrorist attack. The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the driver’s home, in another part of East Jerusalem, would be sealed and demolished.
Government officials say the demolition of attackers’ homes — a standard Israeli practice — is necessary to deter future attacks, and have promised to scale up demolitions of illegal Palestinian construction in general.
Critics and Palestinians say it is counterproductive and exacerbates resentment among Palestinians in East Jerusalem, who complain of systematic discrimination including restrictions on access to residential housing.
East Jerusalem was captured by Israel from Jordan during the Arab-Israeli war of 1967 and later annexed and settled by more than 200,000 Israelis. Israel considers East Jerusalem an indivisible part of its capital, but Palestinians hope it will become the capital of a future Palestinian state, and most of the world considers it occupied territory.
Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, praised but did not claim responsibility for the attack.
Hiba Yazbek and Iyad Abu Hweila contributed reporting.