Palestinian Driver Hits Soldiers, Two Dead, 11 Injured
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) - A Palestinian drove a van into hitchhiking Israeli soldiers in Tel Aviv today, killing two and injuring 11, in an attack intended to avenge the killing of Arabs at Temple Mount last year, police said.
The attack, which Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir called an ″act of terror,″ came as the Bush administration tried to arrange a Mideast peace conference this month amid opposition from Israeli hard-liners.
The assault, at a busy intersection in Tel Aviv, also came at a time of heightened Arab-Israeli tension following the seizure Wednesday of six houses in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem by Jewish nationalists.
Authorities said the driver, a 25-year-old 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 confessed he wanted to avenge the Temple Mount killings.
Three days ago, Palestinians marked the first anniversary of the incident on the mount, known in Arabic as the Haram es-Sharif. Israeli police opened fire on the mount on Oct. 8, 1990, to quell a disturbance, killing 17 Palestinians and wounding at least 150.
The incident set off a series of revenge attacks that have taken the lives of 19 Israelis and two foreign tourists. Eight Palestinians also have been killed, some during the assaults.
A statement by Shamir said today’s ″act of terror″ was ″further proof of the murderous character of our enemies, who do not loathe using any method to harm our sons.″
The statement pledged to ″take all necessary actions to protect the lives of the citizens and prevent the reign of terror.″
He did not elaborate.
But Rabbi Yerachmiel Boyer, mayor of the Bnei Brak suburb of Tel Aviv, said he would push for banning Palestinians from entering the city.
The dead were identified as Sgt. Aharon Kaluzne-Agmon, 36, and Master Sgt. Shmuel Michaeli, 21.
Two of the injured were in critical condition, police said.
A soldier who caught the driver said: ″He told me he ran a red light ... 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 Mideast War. The vehicle belonged to his employer, an Israeli from a farm village in central Israel, they said.
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, a man and a woman, who had been posted at the corner to keep order among the hitchhikers.
Today’s attack could heighten opposition among Israeli hard-liners to a Mideast peace conference the United States is trying to arrange this month.
Israeli hard-liners say members of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which they consider to be terrorist, should not be allowed to attend.
Also, Syrian President Hafez Assad reportedly has raised questions about his country’s participation in a phase of the negotiations with Israel.
In Washington, Palestinian Arabs were returning to the State Department today to continue so-far inconclusive talks on the terms for Palestinian participation in the planned Middle East peace conference.