A Palestinian stabbed passengers on a bus in Yafa (Tel Aviv), wounding at least 12 people before being shot by an Israeli prison officer, Israeli police reported Wednesday.
Twelve people were wounded in the attack, including three who were in serious condition, four in moderate condition and five who sustained light injuries, hospital sources said.
Another seven people were treated for shock.
Tel Aviv police commander Bentzi Sau claimed a vehicle with prison officers traveling close by saw the attack and officers gave chase. They caught the man in a nearby street and shot him in the leg as he tried to escape.
“The terrorist stabbed the bus driver several times but the driver fought back until he fled on foot and was neutralized by a guard from the prisons’ service,” a police statement said.
Labeling Palestinians as “terrorists” is used systematically and automatically when Israelis — both soldiers or civilians — are injured.
Witnesses told army radio the driver apparently used pepper spray or tear gas to try to stop the attack.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the Palestinian was a 23-year-old from the town of Tulkarm in the West Bank.
The attack came after a series of killings by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) and hate crimes by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, annexed East Jerusalem and Occupied Palestine, and months after a 51-days war on Gaza Strip that left more than 2,300 Palestinians dead.
The latest killings were when the IOF killed a 22-year-old Palestinian protester in the southern Negev region and shot dead a 30-year-old Palestinian in the occupied West Bank on January 14. A 45-year-old Bedouin man suffocated to death due to tear gas sprayed during the funeral of the 22-year-old on January 18.
Since September 2000, following the Second Intifada, at least 9,100 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis, including 2,053 Palestinian children, the equivalent of one Palestinian child being killed every three days for the past 14 years.
No Palestinian group has claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s stabbing attack.
A senior leader of Palestinian resistance faction Hamas, however, hailed Wednesday’s incident as “heroic and daring.”
“The attack that targeted the Zionists in Tel Aviv is heroic and daring,” Izzat al-Rashq, a member of Hamas political bureau, said on Twitter on Wednesday. “It is the natural response to the occupation’s crimes and terrorism against the Palestinians,” he added.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas responsible for the attack.
“Hamas, Abbas’ partner in the [Palestinian] unity government, praised the attack,” Netanyahu said in a statement.”This attack came as a result of the ongoing incitement by the PA against the Jews and the state of Israel.”
Similarly, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, for his part, blamed Abbas, Hamas and 1948 Palestinian members of the Knesset for the attack.
He also linked it to violent protests by Bedouin tribesmen in the southern town of Rahat and a recent string of attacks against Israelis in occupied East Jerusalem.
“Those behind the Tel Aviv attack stand behind the Rahat riots and Jerusalem attacks: Abu Mazen [Abbas], [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh, [leader of the Islamist movement in Israel] Raed Saleh, [and Israeli-Arab lawmakers] Haneen Zoabi, Ahmed Tibi and their partners,” Lieberman said.
“It’s all part of the same process of undermining Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state,” he added.
Pictures from the scene released by the police showed what looked like a large kitchen knife lying on the ground.
Speaking to army radio, the prisons service officer, identified only as Benny, described how the incident played out.
“We saw the bus swerve to the side… then stop at a green light,” he said.
“Suddenly, we saw people running out of the bus and when we saw them shouting for help, we jumped out (of our vehicle) and I and three others started running after the terrorist. At first we fired in the air, then at his legs.
“The terrorist fell, we handcuffed him and turned him over to police,” he told the radio.
There was no comments on the health condition of the Palestinian suspect who was transferred to a nearby hospital for further interrogation.
Israeli police typically aim to shoot and kill Palestinians suspected of attacking Israelis on the scene.
In November, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said that “a terrorist who strikes civilians should be killed.”
Human rights groups have accused Israel of encouraging a shoot-to-kill policy after a wave of incidents in which police shot dead Palestinians involved in, or accused of, attacking Israelis.
“Aharonovitch’s statement and its application on the ground show that the authorities simply want these incidents to end — with the terrorist killed at the scene rather than brought into the justice system,” Carolina Landsmann wrote at the time in Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Rights group Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said in a statement the expectation that “police officers will act as jury, judge and executioner, is improper and unacceptable.”
According to Haaretz‘s Landsmann, Israel is also keen to avoid another prisoner swap deal in which it would have to free Palestinians convicted of killing Israelis — as in 2011 when it released more than 1,000 prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, a soldier held by Hamas militants for more than five years.
“The best way to avoid releasing prisoners is not to arrest them to begin with,” she wrote.
The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-infamous Balfour Declaration, called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
Jewish immigration rose considerably under the British administration of Palestine, which was consolidated by a League of Nations “mandate” in 1922.
In 1948, with the end of the mandate, a new state — Israel — was declared inside historical Palestine.
As a result, some 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes, or were forcibly expelled, while hundreds of Palestinian villages and cities were razed to the ground by invading Zionist forces.
The Palestinian diaspora has since become one of the largest in the world. Palestinian refugees are currently spread across the region and in other countries, while many have settled in refugee camps in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israel then occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state — a move never recognized by the international community.
Source: Al-Akhbar English