Violence rattled the capital for a second day Wednesday, when two Palestinian terrorists responsible for separate drive-by shootings were killed by police during a shoot-out near the Old City following a citywide manhunt.
An Arab-Israeli man in his late 50s was critically wounded after being shot twice by the suspects during the gun battle, which took place on a major thoroughfare between the New Gate and light-rail tracks.
At approximately 8 a.m., police first received reports about two suspicious Arab men driving a blue vehicle on Golda Meir Boulevard in the capital’s Ramot neighborhood.
Moments later, shots were fired from the car in the direction of an Egged bus, police said.
Before officers arrived at the scene, an armed Israeli man who witnessed the shooting exited his car and fired a single shot at the terrorists’ vehicle before they fled the area.
“We know that shots were fired in the direction of the bus by two Arab suspects armed with automatic weapons, but no bullet holes were found on the bus itself,” said Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, who added that no casualties were reported.
“Police units immediately set up road blocks and launched a search for the vehicle driven by the terrorists, which we knew was still in Jerusalem and was spotted by special patrol units between the Old City’s Damascus Gate and New Gate one hour later.”
Rosenfeld said that when police approached the car, shots were fired at them before the officers returned fire and killed both suspects.
None of the officers were wounded, but a 57-year-old Arab-Israeli bystander walking in the area was struck in the head and chest by two bullets fired by the suspects.
Magen David Adom paramedics at the scene treated the east Jerusalem resident, who was rushed to Hadassah- University Medical Center on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus in serious condition.
Hadassah-University Medical Center spokeswoman Hadar Elboim said Wednesday night the Arab shooting victim remains in serious-to-critical condition following emergency surgery.
“He has a really bad head wound, and they moved him from Mount Scopus to Ein Kerem, where there are neurological specialists,” she said.
Elboim added that the condition of the two Border Police officers shot in the head outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate by an Arab assailant Tuesday night remains the same, with the 48-year-old victim in critical condition and the 31-year-old victim in moderate-to-serious condition.
Light-rail service was temporarily suspended following Wednesday’s shoot-out, and Rosenfeld said heightened security measures remain in effect throughout the capital for US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit.
“There are two separate security issues taking place right now,” Rosenfeld said. “One is dealing with the terrorist wave that began yesterday, and the other is ensuring the vice president is safe. We’re not taking any chances whatsoever, and the highest security precautions are being taken, including SWAT teams, special patrol units and coordination with American security.”
In a speech at the Knesset Wednesday, MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) read aloud the names of the 34 people killed by terrorists in the recent wave of violence.
“Too many people have lost their lives; 34 people lost their lives,” Hasson lamented, calling them victims of the “third intifada.”
The opposition MK blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he is making Israelis unsafe because of the lack of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
“He’s creating a fence that fences in Palestinians with us, in Israel,” Hasson said. “His running away from decisions is costing us lives.”
According to Hasson, Netanyahu is “doing nothing because he knows that in return for fighting terrorism, the world will demand that he negotiate [with the Palestinians], and that scares him more than terrorism.”
Adding a sense of urgency for an immediate government response to curb the ongoing violence, Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman blasted Netanyahu as ineffective, during a solidarity rally outside the Damascus Gate to praise security personnel.
“All of Yisrael Beytenu has come here to express our appreciation for the security forces that are here day and night in order to keep Israeli citizens safe,” said Liberman.
“They risk their lives every hour and every minute of every day… and the police officers and soldiers who are stationed here deserve appreciation and respect from all the people of Israel.”
Liberman went on to accuse Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon of being “bad for Israel’s security,” and demanded a new plan of action.
“What’s happening here around the Damascus Gate – what happened yesterday after half a year of this terrorism wave – is completely unacceptable,” he said. “The solution is a change in policy. The policy of containing terrorism, or attempting to buy quiet with a lot of money, has failed.”
Claiming Netanyahu’s rhetoric is markedly stronger than his actions, Liberman demanded the prime minister expunge from the Joint (Arab) List MKs who have yet to denounce “the murder of tourists and Israeli citizens” and defend Hezbollah.
“Of course, these are terrorists sitting in the Israeli Knesset,” he said.
“We must act directly to ban them....
We must return to targeted assassinations.
We must stop funding terrorism.
“My position is, first and foremost, to suffocate terrorism,” he continued, condemning Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as an unreliable partner in peace.
“Abu Mazen [Abbas] refuses to condemn the murder of an American tourist,” he said, referring to Taylor Force, who was stabbed to death during a rampage carried out by a Palestinian terrorist in Jaffa on Tuesday.
“They [Abbas and the PA] are playing a double game, and they support all this wave of terrorism.”
Liberman continued: “If someone thinks that you can lead a political process alongside terrorism, he is mistaken.
As long as we do not defeat terrorism, there will be no political process.”Lahav Harkov and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.