Palestinian Driver Hits Soldiers, Two Dead
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ A Palestinian, intent on avenging the killing of Arabs at the Temple Mount last year, drove his van into hitchhiking Israeli soldiers on Friday, killing two and injuring 11, police said.
The attack, condemned by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir as an ″act of terror,″ came as the Bush administration was trying to arrange a Mideast peace conference later this month.
The conference plans have hit a stumbling block over Syria’s intention to bow out of one phase of the peace talks. Arab-Israeli tensions also were heightened by Wednesday’s takeover of six houses in a Jerusalem Arab neighborhood by Jewish nationalists.
Police said the 25-year-old driver from a militant village in the occupied West Bank was arrested and that he acted on ″nationalist grounds.″
Tel Aviv police spokeswoman Dalia Gilad confirmed radio reports that the driver stated that he wanted to avenge the Temple Mount killings.
The episode came three days after Palestinians marked the first anniversary of the shootings on the mount, which is known in Arabic as the Haram es- Sharif. Last Oct. 8, Israeli police opened fire to quell a disturbance at the site, killing 17 Palestinians and wounding at least 150.
The bloodshed set off a series of revenge attacks and counterattacks in which 19 Israelis, eight Palestinians and two foreign tourists were killed.
Shamir said the driver’s attack, at a busy intersection in Tel Aviv, was ″further proof of the murderous character of our enemies, who do not loathe using any method to harm our sons.″
He pledged to ″take all necessary actions to protect the lives of the citizens and prevent the reign of terror.″
Rabbi Yerachmiel Boyer, mayor of the Bnei Brak suburb of Tel Aviv, said he would push for banning Palestinians from entering the city.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Margaret D. Tutwiler condemned the act as ″brutal, murderous and insane.″ She said the driver was either mentally deranged or a terrorist.
One of the dead, Sgt. Shmuel Michaeli, 21, was from Bnei Brak. The other was Master Sgt. Aharon Kaluzne-Agmon, 36, from nearby Givatayim.
An Israeli sergeant whose first name is Gil said the van ran a red light, approached at 40 mph and struck the two military police officers who had been posted at the corner to keep order among the hitchhikers.
″He knocked three of the soldiers into the bus stop itself and another two flew about 20 meters from the station,″ said witness Avi Ben-Zikri on Israel TV.
Three of the injured were in serious condition, hospital officials said.
A soldier who caught the driver said: ″He told me he ran a red light at speed and couldn’t stop. But he was alone on the road and he had every opportunity in the world to avoid the soldiers.″
Police said the driver is from the village of Qibya near Ramallah in the West Bank, captured from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war.
Villagers identified the driver as Rateb Maslam and said he had planned the attack. They said for about $500 he had bought a stolen van with Israeli license plates so he could move about free of suspicion in Israel and that he had left a letter explaining his intent.
Qibya is a militant village where Israeli soldiers killed more than 70 people in 1953 by blowing up about 50 houses in revenge for the slaying of an Israeli woman and two children in a nearby village. The soldiers later said they did not know the houses were occupied.