JERUSALEM — A Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem drove his car into a crowded light-rail station Wednesday, killing a 3-month-old baby and wounding eight people, two of them seriously, according to Israeli police.
The driver was identified as Abd al-Rahman al-Shaludi, a resident of the Silwan neighborhood who, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, has been previously jailed in Israel for involvement in terrorist activities.
“Police arrived on the scene, and the driver was shot as he attempted to flee the vehicle,” Rosenfeld said. Police said that Shaludi was critically injured and that his exact motives were unclear.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately drew a link between Shaludi’s actions and Hamas, the Islamist militant group that rules the Gaza Strip. Israel and Hamas, deemed a terrorist entity by Israel and the United States, fought a 50-day war this summer.
In a statement, Netanyahu criticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s choice of “partners in government,” a reference to a unity deal reached this year between Abbas’s moderate Fatah party and Hamas.
Netanyahu also accused Abbas of incitement “toward a terrorist attack in Jerusalem,” citing a speech the Palestinian leader delivered a few days ago in the West Bank city of Ramallah in which he said Palestinians would not “kneel” or drop demands for a capital in East Jerusalem.
Events this past summer, including the July 2 killing of teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir by alleged Jewish extremists, have prompted protests by Arab residents of East Jerusalem. Some of those demonstrations have turned violent, and attacks on the Jerusalem light rail have become almost routine.
“I do not see an end to this unrest,” said Shaul Bartal, a retired Israeli major. “This is a popular protest, and it is growing. The police have arrested more than 800 people, charged more than half of them, but it does not help. There are still more people ready to demonstrate.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called the situation “intolerable” and said more police personnel would be “sent into neighborhoods where there are disturbances, placing them strategically and widely in significant numbers.”
Earlier in the day, Israel also dispatched additional forces to its southern border after an antitank missile was fired from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula at a military patrol vehicle, the Israeli army said.
Initially, suspicion fell on the Islamist militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which operates along the border and has attempted to infiltrate Israel in the past. But an army inquiry suggested that the attack was a violent drug smuggling attempt.
According to the army, its patrol was fired upon from three locations, including a car being driven along the border. Two soldiers — a man and a woman — were injured.