Tel Aviv bus attack: Israeli police shoot suspect who 'stabbed at least nine people' in terror attack

At least three victims are believed to be in a 'serious condition'

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The Independent Online

Israeli police have shot an attacker reported to have stabbed up to 12 people on a bus in central Tel Aviv.

At least three of the victims are in a "serious condition", Israeli newspaper Haaretz said.

The stabbing took place on the Ma'ariv bridge, police said, and the attacks happened inside and outside of the bus.

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An Israeli police officer secures the scene after a stabbing in Tel Aviv

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Israeli emergency services personnel clean the sidewalk at the scene of an attack

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said that the assailant - named as 23-year-old Palestinian Hamza Mohammed Matroukh, from the West Bank city of Tulkarem, who is believed to have entered Israel illegally - was shot and lightly wounded in the leg after trying to escape. He has been taken into custody.

Officials are treating the incident as a "terror attack", police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Twitter.

He said that the area around the bridge had been closed and officers were patrolling the area to "prevent any further attack", which took place during morning rush hour.

Police said Mr Matroukh had confessed to the stabbing. They claimed he said that he carried it out "in response to last year's Gaza war" and tensions surrounding a Jerusalem site holy to Jews and Muslims.

Officials said: "The terrorist stabbed the bus driver several times but the driver fought back until he [the suspect] fled on foot and was neutralised by a guard from the prisons' service."

"He had murder in his eyes," a bus passenger who gave her name as Orly, told Israel Radio.

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An Israeli man receives medical treatment from medics after he was stabbed by a Palestinian who wounded at least five passengers in a stabbing rampage on a Tel Aviv bus

There have been conflicting reports of the number of casualties in the attack.

While Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported 12 people had been wounded, with three in a serious condition, Associated Press reports said nine people had been stabbed, with four wounded seriously.

A report from the Reuters news agency meanwhile claimed seven people had been stabbed and wounded on the bus.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the Palestinian Authority for the attack, saying it was a "direct result of the Palestinian Authority's venomous incitement against the Jews and their state". He said in a statement: "The same terror tries to hurt us in Paris, Brussels and everywhere."

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman added: "It's all part of the same process of undermining Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state."

Izzat al-Risheq, a member of Hamas' political bureau, described the attack as a "heroic act," according to Haaretz.

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Passers-by stand behind a police tape at the scene of a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv

"The attack carried out this morning is a bold, heroic act and a natural response to the crimes of the occupation and terrorism against the Palestinian people," he is reported to have said.

There have been a series of 'lone-wolf' terror attacks in East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the end of the war in Gaza last summer.

Two weeks ago, a young Jewish man in Jerusalem was stabbed in the back with a screwdriver, and in November, four rabbis and a policeman were killed in a frenzied attack on a synagogue in Har Nof.

In the same month, an Israel Defense Forces soldier was stabbed and killed in a terror attack near the Haganah train station in south Tel Aviv.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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