Two 13-year-old Arab-Israeli girls stabbed and lightly wounded a security guard at the Ramle Central Bus Station on Thursday morning in what police say was a foiled terrorist attack.
One of the two girls was carrying a school backpack and a picture taken at the scene by a police photographer showed the contents of the bag scattered on the pavement, including schoolwork, a calculator, a juice bag and two knives.
Central District spokesman Ch.-Supt. Ami Ben-David said that the two teens approached the metal detector at the entrance to the station around 10:30 Thursday morning, at which point the security guard asked them to show him identification.
At that point the two girls pulled knives and stabbed the guard, lightly wounding him in the hand and leg, Ben-David said.
The assailants were arrested at the scene and taken for questioning at the Ramle police station. Both are Israeli citizens, Ben-David said. Their remands were extended five days by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court.
The two are from Ramle, known generally for being a mixed city whose Arab and Jewish residents live side-by-side, largely in peaceful coexistence.
But both girls are from the Jawarish neighborhood, a self-contained Arab community within the city that has no Jewish residents and is well known for its crime and poverty. It is one of the centers of the illegal drug trade and is home to warring crime clans.
Ben-David said that under questioning both girls confessed that they had planned to carry out a terrorist attack and harm Jews “because of what’s happening at al-Aksa.”
Footage taken at the scene after the attack shows the assailants being restrained by police while one person comes from behind and kicks at one of the girls, as others curse at them and film the scene on their cellphones.
Magen David Adom paramedic Shlomo Elkasalsi said he was near the scene of the attack when he heard someone screaming “terrorists!” and ran to find the security guard conscious and highly distraught, with a number of stab wounds to his extremities. The paramedics gave the guard, age 25, first aid and minutes later an ambulance evacuated him to nearby Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Tzrifin.
One resident of the Arab-dominated neighborhood told the Post that the attack “does not represent us. We are against it.”
Perhaps the girls were radicalized by TV, he added.
Another said, “Don’t worry, everything will be Okay.”
A Jewish resident living in a building just outside Jawarish for 20 years said that in general there is coexistence, but inside of their neighborhood “they kill each other there.” However, it is unusual for the violence to spread into the Jewish parts of the city.
The owner of a hair salon across from the bus station said that ordinarily there are no problems between Arabs and Jews in Ramle.
A customer said that people always remarked that a terrorist attack would never happen here.
However, a shop owner inside the bus station, who did not want to be identified, complained that Arab juvenile delinquents often cause problems, whether it is smoking, stealing or yelling. He claimed that the police and management of the bus station do not adequately provide security.
“There is lots of tension in the air,” he said referring to Arab-Jewish relations in Ramle.
The manager of the bus station declined to comment.
An older man standing nearby said he was a long-time Ramle resident and that the problem is with the younger Arab generation, insisting that when he was younger relations were fine.
Ramle Mayor Yoel Lavi said the attack “does not characterize the Arab sector in Ramle,” Channel 2 reported.
“Ramle is a multicultural city where there is coexistence and good neighborly relations, Jews alongside Arabs,” he added.
MK Anat Berko (Likud) responded to the knifing saying, “In my estimation, based on research in recent years, the phenomenon of stabbing attacks by the shabab [Arabic for youth] will only gain momentum as we have seen today.”
She added that the Green Line does not present a barrier, implying that attacks are occurring in both the Palestinian territories and among Arab Israelis within the Green Line.
She said that her proposed bill would apply criminal responsibility to terrorists younger than 14 and that if it would have been put into place today, “these girls would likely be sent to prison. My bill would create deterrence and save lives.”
The teens are the latest in a long line of underage attackers to carry out stabbings in the current terrorism wave, including two cousins age 11 and 14 who stabbed a security guard on the Jerusalem Light Rail in November of the past year.
That same month, two teenage girls 14 and 16, armed with scissors, attempted a terrorist attack on Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road, stabbing and lightly wounding an elderly Palestinian man before they were shot dead by a security guard and a police officer.