A bulldozer rammed at least one car and overturned a commuter bus in the busy Jaffa Road in west Jerusalem in what was described as a "terrorist incident". Thirty were wounded and four killed, including the driver who was shot dead by security.
JERUSALEM, July 2 (Reuters) - A Palestinian construction
worker rampaged in a bulldozer along one of west Jerusalem's
busiest streets on Wednesday, killing three Israelis as he
crushed cars and overturned a bus before being shot dead.
There was no claim of responsibility from militant groups
and police said they were trying to establish if 30-year-old
Hosam Dwayyat had acted alone. At his family home in the Arab
east of the city, there was no sign of the crowds and banners
that normally accompany the funerals of Palestinian guerrillas.
Neighbours and relatives, including an uncle, said Dwayyat
was divorced from a Jewish Israeli. Police said he had a history
of drug offences but no known political affiliation.
Dwayyat drove the 20-tonne earthmoving vehicle for 500
metres (yards) along Jaffa Road, rolling over cars, crushing
some occupants, and ramming into a crowded number 13 bus,
flipping it on its side with his mechanical shovel.
Dramatic television footage showed the vehicle later at a
standstill and a policeman in the cab, as rescue workers and
passersby surveyed the wreckage. However, the bulldozer started
moving again and a struggle could be seen inside the cab.
A man in civilian clothes leapt aboard and fired a pistol
into the cab, followed by a helmeted policeman in body armour
who fired an automatic rifle. The officer later said he fired
twice at the wounded driver to ensure he was no further threat.
"The only way to stop him was with a bullet to the head,"
witness Moshe Oren said afterwards. "We were relieved."
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the attack "was
an act of senseless, murderous violence". An aide to Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas called it an attempt to wreck peace
negotiations and urged Israel to show restraint in its response.
Abbas's opponents in Hamas and Islamic Jihad said the attack
was a "natural" response by Palestinians to Israeli aggression
but, nearly two weeks into a truce in the Gaza Strip, neither
Islamist group said it was responsible for the incident.
U.S. President George W. Bush called Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert to offer condolences, Israeli spokesman Regev said.
Medical officials said more than 40 people were taken to
hospital. Two Israeli men and a woman died.
It was the first Arab attack in Jewish west Jerusalem since
a gunman killed eight students on March 6 at a rabbinical
seminary a short distance from Jaffa Road.
The scene in the aftermath of the incident was reminiscent
of numerous suicide bombings that destroyed buses on Jaffa Road
during a wave of attacks in 1996 and during the first years of a
Palestinian uprising that began in 2000.
Since then, fatal attacks on Israelis have become relatively
rare, despite frequent rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Israeli
forces have killed more than 360 Palestinians this year, mostly
in Gaza. More than 100 of the Palestinian dead were civilians.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in Gaza his group did
not expect the attack to "influence the Gaza calm".
"There is a continued aggression against our people in the
West Bank and Jerusalem and so it is natural that our people
there will respond to such aggression," he said.
Hamas's allies, Islamic Jihad, said in a statement: "The
Jerusalem Brigades bless the heroic operation in Jerusalem as
the natural reaction to the crimes of the occupation."
Unlike Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip and in the
occupied West Bank, those living in occupied east Jerusalem have
free access to the Jewish west of the city and to Israel.
Arab and Jewish populations do not mix extensively, but
thousands of Palestinians work on Israel's roads and building
sites. The gunman who attacked the seminary in March was from
east Jerusalem. That attack was claimed by Hamas officials.
A senior aide to Olmert, Vice Premier Haim Ramon, said the
incident showed that some Palestinian areas like the one where
Dwayyat lived should be separated from Jerusalem.
Olmert has faced criticism within Israel over his
willingness to consider giving Abbas some Arab-populated areas
which Israel annexed as part of Jerusalem after it occupied the
West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. Abbas wants the capital of
a Palestinian state to be in Jerusalem.
At Gaza's border crossing with Egypt, Egyptian forces used
water cannon and Hamas security forces had to restrain a crowd
jostling for access during a brief opening of the Rafah crossing
point between the Palestinian enclave and its Arab neighbour.
Some Palestinians threw stones at Egyptian forces and also
complained of Hamas's failure to speed their passage to Egypt,
the only access to the outside world for most Gazans, who are
blocked from other land, sea and air routes by Israel.
Date created : 2008-07-02