A three-month-old baby is dead and at least seven pedestrians are hurt in Jerusalem after an Arab driver plowed into people waiting at a Light Rail station close to the National Police headquarters on Wednesday evening, officials said.
“There was a suspect vehicle that hit and struck nine people that were waiting at the train stop. As a result the suspect tried to flee the scene and was shot by police officers in the vicinity,” Israeli Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Algemeiner.
Hospital officials at Hadassah Mt. Scopus announced the death of the infant, Chayah Zissel Bron, shortly after 8 p.m., after doctors tried to stabilize the unconscious child’s condition, from a severe head wound in the attack.
Bron was “a granddaughter of the Halperin family who own Optica Halperin,” according to Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief, Steve Linde.
Soon after the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a security consultation in conjunction with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Israel Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino and Israel Security Agency Director Yoram Cohen, according to a government statement.
“In the telephone consultation, the Prime Minister was updated on the details of vehicular terrorist attack in Jerusalem; he ordered that security forces in Jerusalem be reinforced. ‘This is how Abu Mazen’s [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas] partners in government act, the same Abu Mazen who – only a few days ago – incited toward a terrorist attack in Jerusalem,'” Netanyahu said.
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat told Israel’s Ch. 1 News that three of the victims were Americans, according to The Israel Project, possibly including the infant, although some sources dispute this, and the contention has not been officially confirmed.
“We must restore peace and security in Jerusalem – as I have said for months, the situation in Jerusalem is intolerable and we must act unequivocally against all violence taking place in the city. Today, more than ever, it is clear that we must send police forces into neighborhoods where there are disturbances, placing them strategically and widely in significant numbers,” Barkat said in a statement.
“Following my request, the Prime Minister has given instructions to reinforce the police forces in order for us to implement an operational action plan formulated to deal with riots, including the addition of personnel and special units, using technological means, and increased intelligence.
“I will continue to be vigilant and we will not rest until security is restored in Jerusalem,” according to a statement from the Mayor’s Office.
While Rosenfeld could not confirm the identity of the driver, Israel Radio later said the 20-year-old driver, Abdelrahman al-Shaludi, was a resident of the Arab Silwan neighborhood.
Rosenfeld said later in a tweet that the suspect has served time in an Israeli prison for security offences. Israel television said the individual was a Hamas member who served two sentences for terror activity.
Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich said “all signs” suggested that the ramming was a terror attack, according to Ynet News.
A Hamas spokesman praised the attack, calling it a “natural reaction to the crimes of the occupation,” but stopped short of taking responsibility. However, Linde, in a tweet, said Hamas, did, in fact, take responsibility for the attack.
Netanyahu on Tuesday approved a plan introduced by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch for the formation of a new police unit dedicated to dealing with the civil and security unrest in Jerusalem, JNS News reported.
The plan calls for legislative changes that will allow law enforcement to better deal with children and teenagers who stone vehicles and railway cars traveling through the capital, especially in the city’s eastern Arab neighborhoods. The Jerusalem Light Rail has come under numerous stoning attacks over the past few months, resulting in significant damage to its operations.
Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said Tuesday that the new unit will have advanced intelligence and technological capabilities that will allow its officers to better deal with rioters.
“The unrest experienced in Jerusalem, our capital, is always a top priority,” Danino said, according to Israel Hayom. “We cannot ignore riots, stone-throwing, or the hurling of Molotov cocktails and firecrackers prevalent on the Temple Mount and in other areas of the city. These are serious incidents and they must be treated as such.”
This report will be updated as more details are confirmed.
Watch a video of the moment of the attack (the vehicle hits the pedestrians at the top of the frame, just after the train passes):
Watch a breaking video report from Ch. 2 News: