YERUSHALAYIM – A Palestinian man stabbed twelve people on a bus in central Tel Aviv on Wednesday morning, wounding four of them seriously before he was chased down, shot and arrested by Israeli police in an attack praised by Hamas.
The attack took place on bus number 40 on Menachem Begin Road, a major thoroughfare in Tel Aviv, near the Maariv Bridge. Three other people were moderately wounded, and five of the casualties were in light condition, according to Magen David Adom emergency services.
The incident was the latest in a spate of terror attacks in which Palestinians have used knives, acid and vehicles as weapons in recent months, leaving many dead and wounded. Police identified the assailant as a 23-year-old man from the city of Tulkarem who entered Israel illegally.
The man, who was on the bus himself, travelling with the other passengers, began stabbing people, including the driver, then managed to get out of the bus and started fleeing the scene.
Officers from a prison service who happened to be nearby and saw the bus swerving out of control and a man running away, gave chase, shot the man in the leg, wounding him lightly and subsequently arrested him.
The incident happened at the Maariv Bridge, which spans a main artery in the city and was packed with rush hour traffic.
Initial reports said prison service officers who were driving past the scene during the attack saw the assailant making his escape on foot and gave pursuit before shooting him in the leg.
“We believe it was a terror attack,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. He said four people were seriously hurt and another nine sustained lighter wounds. The stabber was in custody and the police are questioning him now, he said.
Ambulances and police vehicles filled the Maariv Bridge intersection, and police officers closed off the site after the stabbing attack, snarling traffic throughout the economic center.
Police and the GSS officers began searching for possible accomplices who may have helped the attacker, and also upped readiness in case of possible copy-cat attacks.
The stabbing follows the type of “lone-wolf” Palestinian attacks that have plagued Israel in recent months.
Cheli Shushan said her uncle, Herzl Biton, the bus driver, was stabbed in the upper body and liver and was in surgery. She said he had tried to fight back and sprayed the attacker with pepper spray.
Hamas did not claim responsibility but praised Wednesday’s attack as “brave and heroic.”
Israeli officials say the attacks stem from incitement by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders.
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