(JTA) — A car rammed into pedestrians walking along Tel Aviv’s popular boardwalk, killing a tourist and wounding at least seven others on Friday night. Police shot and killed the driver and are treating the incident as a terror attack, though the driver’s family disputes that assessment.
The incident, just hours after gunmen killed two Israeli sisters traveling through the West Bank, left Israel bracing for further violence after days of buildup. The sisters’ mother later died of her wounds.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a call up of all Border Police reserves and also asked the army to call up additional reserves. The driver, Yousef Abu Jaber, 45, was an Israeli citizen and a resident of Kafr Qassem, an Arab city near Tel Aviv.
Israeli media said Abu Jaber steered his car onto the boardwalk near Charles Clore Park and aimed at two sets of pedestrians, one after the other.
Initial reports said Abu Jaber also fired a gun at pedestrians, but police later said he did not. Rather, police said, he reached for an item that looked like a gun but did not fire it. Abu Jaber’s family said he might have suffered a medical incident and did not intend to attack anyone. Police continue to maintain that the incident was a deliberate attack, Times of Israel reported.
One man, an Italian tourist, Alessandro Parini, was killed, and at least seven others, tourists from Italy and Britain, were wounded.
Hamas, the militant Gaza Strip group considered a terrorist organization by the United States, praised the attack but did not claim responsibility.
The boardwalk, a popular site for Israelis on a Friday night, was crowded.
Israeli-Palestinian tensions, already simmering after months of clashes between Israeli police and West Bank residents, reached a boiling point this week after police clashed with Palestinian protesters on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, a site holy both to Muslims and Jews. On Thursday, rockets were fired into Israel from two fronts, the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, and Israel returned fire.
This story has been updated to reflect the fact that initial reports that the driver opened fire were wrong, and that the family and police disagree whether the incident was a deliberate attack. It also reflects the death of a third civilian in an earlier attack.