Jerusalem, Jan 9: Four Israeli soldiers were crushed under the speeding wheels of a flatbed truck allegedly driven by an Arab terrorist on Sunday afternoon, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The truck rammed into a group of Israeli soldiers adjacent to the Armon Hanatziv promenade in the southern part of Jerusalem, the report said.
Among the dead are three female soldiers aged between 20-22years and one male. The Israeli Defence Forces said that two cadets were seriously injured and 15 other officers and cadets sustained minor injuries.
There were around 300 soldiers in that area when the attack took place, sources said. The injured were removed to the hospital.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who visited the scene with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman shortly after the attack, said the identity of the terrorist was known. Later, he was identified as Fadi al-Qanbar, from the neighbourhood of Jebl Mukaber, long a source of incitement and attackers.
“We know the identity of the attacker, and according to all the signs, he is a supporter of Islamic State,” Netanyahu said, without elaborating.
He added that there may be a connection between this attack and similar attacks recently in France and Berlin.
“We are fighting this plague, and will defeat it,” Netanyahu said, noting that Jebl Mukaber has been cordoned off, and that “we are taking other actions that I will not detail here. We will overcome this terrorism, just as we overcame other attacks. There are a number of actions that we will not specify at this time, which we will have to take to ensure that incidents such as these do not recur.”
Israel Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman said the attack was clearly the result of incitement against Jews living in Israel.
“This brutal attack is obviously not because of any other reason but one: Because we are Jews and we live here in Israel,” he said. “There was no other reason, and no need to look for an excuse – not Jewish settlements and negotiations, but an attack inspired by ISIS.”
Liberman continued: “We saw it in France, we saw it in Berlin, and unfortunately, we saw it today in Jerusalem. We will fight this terrorism with all tools at our disposal, and I’m sure that will win.”
Soon after visiting the site, Netanyahu convened a meeting of the security cabinet, which decided to approve administrative detention for people identifying with ISIS. It also moved to destroy the home of the terrorist as soon as possible, reject family reunification requests his family had filed for relatives in Gaza and the West Bank, and not to hand over the terrorist’s body to his family for burial.
During the meeting, Netanyahu also directed the security forces to investigate reports that some people at the scene of the attack had praised it, and that if that indeed was the case, then to bring them to court.
Magen David Adom spokesman Elli Zenilman said several emergency personnel units responded immediately after receiving a call reporting the attack.
“When we arrived at the scene, we saw something that was horrifying – young adults lying on the street in the area of the attack,” said Zenilman, a few meters from the carnage, which was cordoned- off by police.
MDA paramedic Landy Sharon said he saw a truck that hit a group of young people that got off a bus near the Armon Hanatziv observation post.
“About 10 people were lying on the ground near the street,” he said. “Some of them were trapped under the truck.”
ZAKA Jerusalem commander Bentzi Oering described the scene as reminiscent of a battlefield.
“This [was] a very difficult attack,” he said. “I arrived with other ZAKA volunteers and the scene looked like a battlefield.
Many injured lay on the grass; some of them were still trapped under the terrorist’s truck.”
ZAKA Jerusalem operations commander Meir Akar said a crane provided by the firefighters was used to lift the front part of the truck to free those trapped underneath.
“Tragically, they were no longer alive,” he said.
“A team from the forensics department of the Israel Police and ZAKA carried out the initial identification of the dead,” Akar continued. “ZAKA then removed the bodies of the four victims and the terrorist. Another ZAKA team remained at the scene to clear the significant amount of blood and remains to bring them to burial.”
The truck’s windshield was riddled with bullet holes. Dozens of first-responders, police and fire-rescue personnel secured the scene and completely closed off traffic on the main thoroughfare next to the popular promenade.
Speaking to the media minutes after the attack, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich said Qanbar had a valid Israeli driver’s license and license plate.
Alsheich added that there was no warning of the attack, but that police have set up checkpoints in Jebl Mukaber, and heightened security throughout the capital.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat spoke during an impromptu news conference to dozens of reporters.
“To our dismay, there is no limit to the cruelty of the terrorists who are willing to use any means possible to murder Jews and to damage the routine of life in Israel’s capital,” said Barkat.
“Those who incite and fan the flames of terrorism must pay a heavy price,” he added. “I call on the residents of Jerusalem and the country at large to be alert, and despite this grave terrorist attack, to carry on in your daily routines, and do not let terrorism win.”
The US State Department said Sunday it condemned “in the strongest possible terms today’s horrific vehicular attack by a terrorist in Jerusalem. There is absolutely no justification for these brutal and senseless attacks. We condemn the glorification of terrorism now or at any time and call on all to send a clear message that terrorism must never be tolerated.”
On Twitter, Hamas lauded the attack as “heroic,” although it did not take credit.
“The truck operation in Jerusalem affirms that all attempts to encircle the intifada will fail,” the Palestinian terrorist group wrote.