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Palestinian shot dead after driving truck into Israeli soldiers, killing 4

Jan. 8, 2017 1:51 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 9, 2017 1:25 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces after driving a truck into a group of uniformed Israeli soldiers, killing four soldiers and injuring at least 13 other people Saturday afternoon, at a bus stop in the illegal Israeli settlement of East Talpiyyot in occupied East Jerusalem.

An Israeli police spokesperson confirmed in a statement that the "terrorist" was shot and killed after carrying out what she called a deliberate attack.

Sources identified the slain driver as 28-year-old Fadi Ahmad Hamdan al-Qunbar from the nearby East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir.

Israel's emergency medical service Magen David Adom (MDA) said that the slain Israeli soldiers were in their 20s.

MDA added that 13 others were wounded -- three severely, one moderately to severely, and nine lightly. They were all evacuated to Israel's Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem.

Israeli police said a truck with Israeli license plates veered from its course and rammed into people getting off of a bus -- later revealed to be a group of uniformed Israeli soldiers who were reportedly on an "educational trip" along with several other groups of soldiers -- at a promenade in the settlement, which overlooks the Old City of East Jerusalem.

A number of people were initially trapped under the truck, and three of the wounded reportedly had to be extracted from under the track using a crane.

Israeli police said they imposed heightened security measures in the Jerusalem area, and that investigations were ongoing. Israeli police chief Roni Alsheich told reporters that there was no advance warning for the attack.

Israeli police later announced a gag-order for Israeli media on all further details of the case, including the identities of suspects. The four slain soldiers were identified in Israeli media as 20-year-old Yael Yekutiel from the Israeli city of Givataiym, 22-year-old Shir Hajaj from the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, 20-year-old Shira Tzur from Haifa in northern Israel, and 20-year-old Erez Orbach from the illegal Alon Shvut settlement.

The illegal East Talpiyyot settlement is also known as Armon Hanatziv, and is located just west of Jabal al-Mukabbir.

Since a wave of unrest began in October 2015-- largely marked by small-scale attacks by Palestinians targeting uniformed Israeli soldiers and police with knives or similar weapons -- a number of deliberate car ramming attacks have occurred. However, Israeli authorities' version of events have been challenged in a number of incidents, with officials in some cases later admitting so-called "terror attacks" were actually traffic accidents.

However, Israeli news site Ynet quoted a witness as saying that after the truck rammed into the group of soldiers, Israeli forces fired at the driver who then reversed the truck and ran over the soldiers again. A video later released on Israeli media purported to show the moment the truck rammed into the soldiers.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov condemned the attack, saying it was “reprehensible that some choose to glorify such acts which undermine the possibility of a peaceful future for both Palestinians and Israelis. There is nothing heroic in such actions.

“I urge all to condemn violence and incitement, maintain calm and to do everything they can to avoid further escalation,” Mladenov added.

Israeli Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat reacted to the attack, with The Jerusalem Post quoting him as saying that “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 daily life of Israel's capital" -- in reference to the controversial Israeli claim to Jerusalem as its undivided capital.

"Those who incite and fan the flames and those who support terror must pay a heavy price," Barkat added.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed in a statement that the slain Palestinian attacker was “by all indications a supporter of the Islamic State.”

Meanwhile, the Hamas movement released a statement in Arabic on social media, in which it hailed the "heroic and brave truck attack in Jerusalem which comes as natural reaction to the Israeli occupation's crimes."

The Hamas movement organized two marches in Jabaliya and the al-Shati refugee camp in the besieged Gaza Strip on Sunday to celebrate the attack in Jerusalem.

Hamas politburo member Fathi Hammad said that the attack confirmed the continuity of a Palestinian unrest since October 2015, adding that Hamas would support any actions against the Israeli occupation.
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