Baby killed in Jerusalem car attack

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Published: Thursday 23rd October 2014 by The News Editor

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A Palestinian with a history of anti-Israel violence slammed his car into a crowded railway station in Jerusalem, killing a three-month-old baby girl and wounding eight people in what police called a terror attack.

The girl and her parents, who were injured in the attack, were US citizens, said Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat.

The violence came after months of tensions between Jews and Palestinians in east Jerusalem – the section of the city the Palestinians demand as their future capital. The area has experienced unrest and near-daily attacks on the city’s light rail by Palestinian youths since a wave of violence over the summer, capped by a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza.

The car struck the station near the national headquarters of Israel’s police force. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the driver got out of the car and tried to flee before he was shot by a police officer.

He said footage captured by security cameras indicated the driver deliberately struck people waiting at the stop.

“We look at this incident as a terrorist attack,” Mr Rosenfeld said. The area was cordoned off and forensic and bomb disposal experts were on the scene examining the car.

The footage, posted on the Ynet news site, showed the car turning out of moving traffic and heading straight into the station, accelerating while ploughing through several rows of people.

The baby later died of her injuries.

“She is a pure baby girl who hasn’t done anything bad to anyone,” Shimshon Halperin, the girl’s grandfather, who is Israeli, told Channel 2 TV. “She was murdered for no reason.”

It was not immediately clear if the baby and her parents also held Israeli citizenship.

Mr Rosenfeld said the driver, from the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, was in a serious condition. He added that he “has served time in Israeli prison for terrorism”. Israeli media reported he was a member of the Islamic militant group Hamas.

The Israeli government informed the US that Hamas was believed to be responsible for the attack, an American official said.

It was not clear, however, if the attack was the work of a lone wolf, the official added. There was no immediate information of any orders to carry out the attack delivered by top-level members of Hamas, the official said.

Silwan, a predominantly Arab neighbourhood, has seen tensions increase in recent weeks since Jewish nationalists moved into several homes.

Nationalist groups are intent on solidifying the Jewish presence in east Jerusalem, but Palestinians consider their arrival to be a provocation.

East Jerusalem has experienced months of unrest since a wave of violence erupted over the summer. Train passengers have reported Palestinians attacking the carriages with rocks and other violence.

The unrest began with the kidnapping and killings of three teenage Israelis in the West Bank in June by a pair of Hamas operatives. Several weeks later Jewish extremists kidnapped and burned to death a Palestinian teenager in east Jerusalem. Then, on July 8, Israel launched its war against Hamas in Gaza in response to heavy rocket fire.

East Jerusalem is home to more than 200,000 Arabs, as well as 200,000 Israelis.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed the area as part of its capital – a step that has not been recognised internationally. The Palestinians seek it as the capital of a future state that would also include the West Bank and Gaza.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement blaming Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas for adding fuel to the soaring tensions in Jerusalem with recent antagonistic comments.

Mr Abbas “just a few days ago incited (Palestinians) to attack Jews in Jerusalem”, Mr Netanyahu said.

Mr Abbas had called on Palestinians to prevent Jews “by any means” from visiting a Jerusalem holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. He was referring to the hilltop compound sacred to Jews as the Temple Mount, where the two biblical Jewish Temples stood.

It is also sacred to Muslims, who refer to it as Noble Sanctuary, the place from where they believe the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. The site is the holiest in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam, and a frequent flashpoint for Palestinian demonstrations.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US condemned the attack and expressed condolences to the family. “We urge all sides to maintain calm and avoid escalating tensions in the wake of this incident,” she said.

Mr Barkat said police presence would be beefed up in the city.

“We must restore peace and security in Jerusalem,” he said. “The situation in Jerusalem is intolerable and we must act unequivocally against all violence taking place in the city.”

Published: Thursday 23rd October 2014 by The News Editor

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