JERUSALEM (JTA) – In an imitation of an attack nearly three weeks ago, an Arab construction worker rampaged through the streets of Jerusalem in a bulldozer, crushing cars and hitting a bus before being shot dead by Israeli border police.
At least 16 people were injured in the attack early Tuesday afternoon, including a 9-month-old baby and his mother. One of the injured remains in serious condition at Shaare Tzedek Hospital, reports say.
The driver was identified in news reports as Ghasan Abu-Tir, 22, of eastern Jerusalem. He held an Israeli identification card.
His relative, Palestinian Authority Parliament member Muhammad Abu-Tir, is jailed in Israel, Ynet reported.
The attack, near the neighborhoods of Yemin Moshe and Talbiyeh, was similar to a July 2 attack when a bulldozer driver from eastern Jerusalem killed three Israelis on Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road before being shot dead by an off-duty soldier.
While that assailant was thought to have had political motives, Israeli authorities were unable to establish any clear links to Palestinian terrorist groups.
Israeli police sealed off routes leaving Jerusalem following Tuesday’s attack in an attempt to catch two suspected accomplices who were seen leaving the scene.
The attack, at the corner of Keren Hayesod and King David streets in the heart of Jerusalem, took place within sight of the King David Hotel, which will host U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) during the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate’s visit to Israel, set to begin Tuesday evening.
The bulldozer driver, who according to witnesses wore a large white skullcap common to religious Muslims, chased the No. 13 bus while raising the shovel of his front-end loader, the driver of the bus told the Ha’aretz newspaper.
“I was driving on the main road when the [bulldozer] hit me in the rear, on the right-hand side,” driver Avi Levi told Ha’aretz. “After I passed him he turned round, made a U-turn and rammed the windows twice with the shovel. The third time he aimed for my head, he came up to my window and I swerved to the right, otherwise I would have gone to meet my maker.”
Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski told Israel’s Channel 10 that the two bulldozer attacks could affect the future hiring of Arabs from eastern Jerusalem.
“We should reconsider the employment of these people,” he said.
Lupolianski, who was near the area of the attack and rushed to the scene, added that “tools of construction become opportunities for attacks.”
P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, which took place while he was meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres in the president’s residence, located a few blocks away from the scene. It was the first meeting in the president’s residence with a P.A. president.
At a news conference in Jordan, Obama condemned the attack.
“Today’s bulldozer attack is a reminder of what Israelis have courageously lived with on a daily basis for far too long,” Obama said in Amman. “I strongly condemn this attack and will always support Israel in confronting terrorism and pursuing lasting peace and security.”