Israeli police say one dead and 13 hurt as car rams crowd in East Jerusalem

One person died after being run over and the driver was shot dead by police

A Palestinian driver rammed his car into a crowd at a tram stop in East Jerusalem yesterday, killing a border policeman and wounding 13 other people. The driver was shot dead by security forces after he left his car and tried to attack people with a metal rod, police said.

A Palestinian driver rammed his car into a crowd at a tram stop in East Jerusalem yesterday, killing a border policeman and wounding 13 other people. The driver was shot dead by security forces after he left his car and tried to attack people with a metal rod, police said.

The attack raised tensions in Jerusalem to their highest level in recent years. Its Arab neighbourhoods have been simmering over a perceived Israeli threat to Islam’s third holiest site, the al-Aqsa mosque, and the attack touched off a heated exchange of accusations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, blamed “incitement” by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, while Abdullah Abdullah, a Palestinian politician who supports Mr Abbas, said Israeli policies were “a planned attack on the holy site of the Muslims” and had triggered “unfortunate reactions”.

Last week, a Palestinian tried to assassinate an Israeli activist who had called for Jews to be allowed to pray in the mosque compound, known to Israelis as the Temple Mount and considered Judaism’s holiest site. Police had clashed with Palestinian youths at the site shortly before the attack.

Israeli authorities said five people were injured at the tram stop and that the driver kept going for another 500 yards, injuring more people as he smashed into cars. “He left his vehicle and attempted to hit people with a metal bar. He was shot and killed by border police at the scene,” a police spokesman said.

“We’re still working to find out if it was a planned attack or spontaneous,” he added.

The attack was similar to one carried out two weeks ago at another tram stop in occupied East Jerusalem. On that occasion a three-month old baby and an Ecuadorian woman were killed when a Palestinian drove into a crowd of people waiting at the stop.

Aviv Hovav, of the Israeli rescue service, was one of the first people on the scene yesterday. He said traffic lights had been knocked over and a lot of damage caused. “We saw five people on the side of the road who had been hit by the car. One was critically injured and two seriously wounded. Then it became clear to us there was another focal point with more wounded. Three of them were seriously wounded.”

The driver of the car was identified as Ibrahim al-Aqari from the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem. The militant Hamas group applauded the attack. “We praise this heroic operation,” a spokesman said. “We call for more such operations.” Al-Aqari’s brother, Musa al-Aqari, spent 19 years in an Israeli jail for kidnapping and murdering a border policeman in 1992. He was released and expelled to Turkey as part of a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas in 2011.

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Israel’s Minister of Public Security, Yitzhak Aharanovich, applauded the security forces for their swift response. “A terrorist who harms citizens deserves to die,” he said. Mr Aharanovich added that he would recommend to Mr Netanyahu that the homes of people who carry out such attacks be demolished. “For everyone who harms police and civilians, their home must be destroyed,” he said. He added that it is impossible for police to stop every attack but vowed that “quiet will be restored to Jerusalem”.

Mr Netanyahu, speaking at a memorial event for Yitzhak Rabin, the former prime minister who was assassinated in 1995, called the attack “a direct result of the incitement by Abu Mazen [an alternative name for Mr Abbas] and his partners in Hamas”. He appeared to be referring to a condolence letter the Palestinian leader had sent to the family of last week’s would-be assassin. Mr Abbas wrote that he had died defending Palestinian holy sites and had gone to heaven.

Mr Netanyahu has said there will be no change to the status quo at the al-Aqsa mosque. But far-right members of the Knesset, including some from Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party, have visited the site and proposed giving Jews the legal right to pray there; and Muslim access to the mosque has been restricted, supposedly for security reasons. All this has heightened Palestinian fears about Israeli intentions.

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