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Israeli policeman killed as Palestinian rams car into crowd

AFP , Wednesday 5 Nov 2014
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Views: 1194

An Israeli border policeman was killed and nine other people wounded Wednesday when a Palestinian ran down two groups of pedestrians in occupied East Jerusalem following weeks of tensions in the city.

It was the second such deadly car attack by a Palestinian in two weeks and came after a morning of violent clashes at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound involving occupation forces and Palestinian protesters objecting the continuous Israeli violations of their rights in occupied East Jerusalem. 

Police described the incident, which took place on the seam line between west Jerusalem and the city's Arab east, as a "hit and run terror attack."

The driver, whom police identified as a Palestinian from Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem, hit two groups of pedestrians before getting out of the vehicle and attacking passers-by with an iron bar. Police then shot him dead.

The attack mirrored an incident on October 23 when a Palestinian rammed his car into a group of pedestrians, killing a young woman and a baby. That incident took place on the same road, just a few hundred metres (yards) further north.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the driver had first struck a group of policemen who were crossing the road near border police headquarters, before continuing south and hitting a group of pedestrians waiting at the Shimon HaTsadik light rail station.

After the car came to a halt, the driver, who had sustained injuries during his rampage, "got out of the vehicle and started to hit people with an iron bar," she said. He was shot dead by police out on patrol in the area.

Emergency services spokesman Zaki Heller said two of the wounded were in very serious condition.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat vowed to keep up the pressure on anyone seeking to terrorise the city through attacks or rioting. He was referring to persistent unrest which has gripped the city's east for the past four months.

"This is a hard day for Jerusalem," he said in a statement, urging the government to act with "a firm hand to win the war against terror and rioting".

"The only answer is to get the city back to normal and continue our daily lives because that sends a message to these terrorists: We are here and we will not leave," he said.

"We will act with an even firmer hand and we will win this war."

Shortly after the attack, clashes broke out in both Shuafat refugee camp and Issawiya, also in east Jerusalem, an AFP correspondent reported.

The city had been on edge since the morning following heavy clashes between police and Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound ahead of a visit by a group of Jewish extremists.

The clashes prompted a furious response from Jordan, which has custodial rights over Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, with Amman recalling its ambassador to Israel "in protest at Israel's escalation on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound."

The compound is the third holiest site in Islam  after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

It has been the scene of frequent confrontations in recent months, largely triggered by Palestinian fears that Israel was poised to allow Jewish prayer at the site.

"Dozens of masked protesters threw stones and firecrackers at security forces who then entered the Temple Mount and pushed the demonstrators inside the (Al-Aqsa) mosque," police spokeswoman Luba Samri said, using the Israeli term for the compound.

In a bid to quell the disturbances, police entered "several metres (yards)" inside the mosque to remove blockages set up by the protesters in order to lock them inside, she said.

Although it was an "extremely rare" move, Samri said it was not the first time.

An AFP correspondent also reported seeing police on the roof of the mosque.

Police said the protesters had stayed in the mosque overnight to try to prevent the visit by Jewish hardliners, and had started hurling stones and firecrackers when police opened the entrance used by non-Muslims.

Police often lock protesters in the mosque when clashes erupt at the site.

Clashes also spread into the alleys of the surrounding Old City, an AFP correspondent reported.

Israeli police fired tear gas and percussion grenades to disperse a large crowd of angry Palestinians. Dozens of children on their way to school were caught up in disturbances.

Amin Abu Ghazali of the Palestinian Red Crescent told AFP that 39 people were wounded, 11 of whom were taken to hospital with injuries from foam-coated rubber bullets. Six of them were in serious condition, he said.

After the protesters were locked inside, the compound was reopened to visitors with around 108 Israeli Jews entering alongside 200 foreign tourists, police said.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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