A Palestinian driver rammed his truck into a group of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem on Sunday, killing four people and injuring 15 others in what authorities immediately described as a terrorist attack. The driver, who was identified as a resident of East Jerusalem, took his truck out of course and quickly slammed it into a group of soldiers getting off a bus. All those killed, including three women and a man, were in their 20s. At least one person was seriously injured. "It is a terrorist attack, a ramming attack," a police spokeswoman said.
The deadliest Palestinian attack in Jerusalem in months was all caught on security camera footage, which shows how the driver quickly went into reverse after ramming into the group of soldiers in what appears to be an attempt to strike more people. "There was no sense in that reverse," a witness, told reporters. "He drove backward to crush more people. That was really clear."
Soldiers were in the popular promenade as part of what are known as “Culture Sundays,” when the Army takes soldiers to important historical and national sites across the country. Once the soldiers realized what was going on, they shot at the truck until they killed the driver. But the security footage also showed many soldiers fleeing from the scene of the attack with rifles in tow, and some in the Israeli media are already wondering why more servicemembers didn’t attempt to stop the attacker. A civilian tour guide who was one of the first to open fire openly questioned why those around him didn’t do more. “I have to ask why it took a 30-year-old civilian to fire first,” Eitan Rod said, “when there were well-armed officers” in the area.
No one has taken responsibility for the attack, but Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, quickly praised it. "We bless this heroic operation resisting the Israeli occupation to force it to stop its crimes and violations against our people," a Hamas spokesman told Reuters. Another spokesman also celebrated the attack on his Facebook page, saying that “these operations demonstrate that all attempts to bypass the resistance or to thwart it will fail every time.”
Although Palestinian attackers have rammed vehicles into crowds before, authorities said it was possible that in this case the driver was inspired by the Berlin Christmas market attack that killed 12 last month. "It is certainly possible to be influenced by watching TV but it is difficult to get into the head of every individual to determine what prompted him, but there is no doubt that these things do have an effect," Roni Alsheich, the national police chief, told reporters.
The attack comes at a time when the number of Palestinian street-style attacks had been decreasing in recent months. Palestinian attackers have killed 40 Israelis and two visiting Americas since September 2015, according to the Associated Press. At least 231 Palestinian have been killed by Israeli fire during that period, although Israel says at least 157 of them were attackers, often targeting security forces, and the rest died in clashes and protests.