The wave of terrorist attacks in recent days continued Thursday with stabbings in Tel Aviv, Afula, Kiryat Arba and Jerusalem throughout the day, leaving four seriously wounded. One of the assailants was killed at the scene, two were arrested, and another was being hunted by the IDF.
In central Tel Aviv Thursday morning, a young Palestinian man armed with a screwdriver stabbed a female soldier and wounded four bystanders before he was shot and killed by an air force officer who was passing by.
Like other recent attacks, this one happened at one of the busiest places in the city – the intersection of Begin and Mozes streets, across from the IDF headquarters and the Azrieli mall, when the area was jammed with pedestrians in the middle of the afternoon.
The attacker, later named as east Jerusalem native Tair Abu Gazala, 19, walked out of a building site on Menachem Begin Street armed with a screwdriver and stabbed the female soldier, knocking her to the ground.
According to Yarkon Police subdistrict commander Dep.- Ch. Yehuda Dahan, the terrorist tried unsuccessfully to steal the soldier’s rifle, but in her fall to the ground she had inadvertently trapped it under her body. After a brief struggle, Abu Gazala gave up and started running down Mozes Street.
It was at this point that a number of bystanders gave chase after the attacker.
Cab driver Ilan Danino was still holding a tire iron in his hand on Thursday when he described how he saw the assailant running down Mozes Street. He parked his cab in the middle of the road and began to run after him. It was then that he saw a young air force officer who would soon be hailed as a hero.
Sec.-Lt. Daniel (last name withheld), an officer in the IAF’s Air Defense Command, said he saw the terrorist stab the soldier. “So I got out of my car, ran toward him and neutralized him from close range. I was in the right place at the right time and did what is expected of every fighter in the air force and IDF as a whole.”
In Afula on Thursday afternoon, a 20-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank stabbed a soldier in the Jezreel Valley city.
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) named the Afula knife attacker as Jenin resident Tarak Yahya, 20. Yahya, who is single, has no history of previous security offenses or arrests.
He fell upon a 21-year-old soldier in uniform, stabbing him multiple times in the chest and leaving him moderately to seriously wounded, paramedics and medical personnel said. Yahya then fled, chased by a number of locals. They managed to catch up with the perpetrator, tackle him and pin him to the ground until the police arrived. In videos posted online afterward, three men can be seen sitting on him.
When the police came to evacuate the terrorist, they faced an angry mob of locals trying to harm the man and they used pepper spray to clear the crowd. Yahya was not wounded, other than light injuries caused by a number of blows from locals, a Magen David Adom paramedic said.
As police left the scene with him, several residents threw rocks at the police vehicle, as well as at cars belonging to Arab motorists afterward.
A Channel 2 news crew that was reporting at the scene was assaulted by locals and was forced to broadcast from another location.
Near a light-rail stop in northern Jerusalem late Thursday morning, a Jewish man was stabbed in the neck by a Palestinian terrorist across the road from Israel Police headquarters.
According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, the incident took place shortly before noon, when the terrorist slashed the neck of a 25-year-old man at a stop on Ammunition Hill.
A civilian named Shlomo Gangata tackled the terrorist, and a light-rail security guard helped him wrestle the assailant to the ground, and was lightly wounded during the melee.
The terrorist – identified by the Shin Bet as Subhi Abu Khalifa, 19, a resident of Shuafat – was apprehended by police moments later and taken for interrogation.
The victim, a married father of one, was treated at the scene by MDA paramedics, before being rushed to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem with the knife still lodged in his neck.
Hospital spokeswoman Shoham Ruvio said he underwent emergency surgery and was in stable condition in the intensive care unit as of Thursday evening.
“It was a very big cut, and he lost a lot of blood,” said Ruvio. “He is still unconscious, but is no longer in serious danger. He will remain in the hospital for several days.”
Following the attack, police cordoned off the area and temporarily halted light-rail service, as well as traffic on Haim Bar-Lev Boulevard.
Service and traffic resumed at around 1 p.m., Rosenfeld said.
On Thursday afternoon, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed and seriously injured an Israeli man near Kiryat Arba.
The wounded civilian, 31, was taken by MDA to Shaare Zedek Medical Center, suffering from stab wounds to his chest, stomach and back. The hospital listed him in serious condition.
The incident occurred near the western entrance to Kiryat Arba, which leads to Hebron.
IDF units swept the area searching for the attacker.
After the stabbing in Tel Aviv, Dahan held a press conference to emphasize what he said is the “high awareness of citizens and soldiers and people who carry weapons,” which he said in this case prevented a mass casualty event.
“We’re seeing incidents across Israel that are being stopped by police, military personnel and also armed civilians, who are able to stop attacks and prevent further harm. We are of course deploying in higher numbers than usual, but the alertness that civilians show is of great importance.”
In Jerusalem, Rosenfeld said heightened security will remain in effect throughout the capital for the near future, with an emphasis on the Temple Mount during Friday prayers.
“Police have made security assessments for Friday prayers and have added many metal detectors and extra checkpoints throughout the Old City, and will continue to closely monitor Arab neighborhoods,” he said.
Amid the elevated security, Muslim men under the age of 50 will continue to be barred from praying on the Temple Mount, Rosenfeld said.
Violent clashes between Palestinians and the IDF continued throughout Thursday in the West Bank.
Near Tekoa, in Gush Etzion, some 100 Palestinians hurled rocks and soldiers responded with rubber bullets. Five Palestinians sustained injuries and one IDF soldier was lightly wounded, receiving treatment from a medic on the scene.
At Ayosh junction between Ramallah and Bet El, about 70 Palestinians threw rocks and rolled burning tires at soldiers, who responded by firing rubber bullets. Five rioters sustained injuries in that clash.
Near Tulkarm, some 500 Palestinians hurled firebombs, rocks and firecrackers at security forces, who responded by firing low-caliber bullets. One Palestinian sustained wounds in that clash.
In Beit Umar, northwest of Hebron, about 40 Palestinians hurled rocks, and soldiers responded with .22 rifle rounds. Three Palestinians sustained injuries. Rioters threw rocks at a bus at Halamish (Neveh Tzuf), north of Ramallah, damaging the vehicle.
On Thursday evening, some 200 Palestinians threw explosive devices, firebombs and rocks at soldiers near Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, who responded with low caliber rifle rounds and crowd control measures.
Some 70 Palestinians launched a violent disturbance at al-Fawwar, and soldiers responded with rubber bullets, striking four rioters, the IDF Spokesman said.