A Palestinian truck driver on Sunday rammed his vehicle into a crowd of Israeli soldiers at a popular Jerusalem tourist spot, killing four people and wounding 17 others in the deadliest single attack of more than a year of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
The attack came at a time of heightened tensions in Jerusalem, where Palestinians have warned of dire consequences if incoming President Donald Trump follows through on his promise to move the US Embassy to the city. The atmosphere among Israelis is also charged following last week’s manslaughter conviction of an Israeli soldier who fatally shot a wounded Palestinian attacker.
Visiting the attack site, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there was strong evidence the attacker was a supporter of the Islamic State (IS) group and suggested a link to previous vehicle attacks in Europe.
Netanyahu offered no evidence to support the claim. While Israel has arrested several Palestinians who allegedly travelled to Syria to join IS, the group is not known to have any serious presence in Israel or the Palestinian areas. Israel has said that two gunmen who carried out a deadly attack in Tel Aviv last June were also inspired by IS.
The attacker, identified as 28-year-old Fadi Qunbar, came from the Palestinian neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber in east Jerusalem – located near the attack site.
The neighborhood, home to many other past attacks, has sporadically experienced violent clashes between residents and Israeli security forces. Netanyahu ordered a closure of the neighborhood. Israeli media said his Security Cabinet decided to destroy the attacker’s home and withhold the release of his body.
Relatives and neighbours said Qunbar, a father of four, espoused an ultra-conservative version of Islam, known as Salafism, and had no known ties to militant groups. Salafism is split into peaceful and violent streams, with the latter promoting ideas that are close to those of IS.
Neither IS nor any other group claimed Sunday’s attack. The vast majority of attacks in the current wave of violence were carried out by individuals without links to militant groups.
A woman, who identified herself as Qunbar’s sister, told journalists that his wife had asked him to come home for lunch, but that he turned her down because he “had work to do”. She said police had arrested the attacker’s parents, wife and two brothers.
The attack occurred along a popular overlook in the Armon Hanatziv neighbourhood that provides a sweeping vista of the city.
The Israeli military said the soldiers had been participating in an educational trip. It said three cadets and an officer were killed, and 17 others were wounded. Three of the dead, including the officer, were female.