Hannah Bladon, a 20-year-old British exchange student, was stabbed to death on Friday in an attack on the Jerusalem Light Rail, a few meters outside the Old City, where tens of thousands of visitors from across the globe were observing Passover and Easter.
According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, the 57-year-old suspect, a resident of east Jerusalem’s Ras el-Amud neighborhood, boarded a light rail train at the Damascus Gate stop that was heading toward the center of town at approximately 1 p.m.
“As the tram approached Kikar Tzahal [Tzahal Square], the terrorist pulled out a knife and stabbed the female tourist in the upper body, critically wounding her,” said Rosenfeld. “She was treated at the scene by paramedics and rushed to Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem, where she died of her wounds.”
Rosenfeld said the assailant, identified as Jamil Tamimi, was immediately apprehended by a police officer on the train.
Scene of stabbing attack on Jerusalem light rail on April 14, 2017 (UNITED HATZALAH)
Bentzi Oering, Jerusalem commander of ZAKA rescue and recovery organization, said members of the emergency response unit arrived at the scene within minutes.
“There was one young woman in critical condition, as well as others suffering from shock,” said Oering. “After the young woman received CPR treatment and was taken to the hospital by Magen David Adom, the ZAKA volunteers remained at the scene to collect the remains [blood and any flesh, as is customary for a Jewish burial].”
Bladon gave her seat on the train to a woman who was standing, holding a baby. She then moved to the door and stood right next to Tamimi, according to a Channel 2 news report.
A pregnant woman in her 30s sustained a light injury to her stomach when the train came to a rapid halt. A man in his 50s was also lightly wounded, as he attempted to flee the attack. Both were treated at the scene and transferred to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
Rail service was temporarily suspended as police searched for other possible accomplices.
“The suspect was taken to Jerusalem’s police headquarters for questioning, where it was confirmed that it was a terrorist attack,” Rosenfeld said.
Shortly after the stabbing, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) issued a statement identifying the killer. It noted that the assailant had serious mental health issues.
Bladon’s family said they were devastated by her murder, in a statement issued through the British Foreign Office.
“Hannah was the most caring, sensitive and compassionate daughter you could ever wish for,” the statement said. “She was a talented student and was studying at Birmingham University for a degree in religion, theology and archeology. At the time of her death, she was part of a student exchange program and was studying at the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.”
The family noted that Bladon was actively involved in the community and had taken part in an archeological dig on the morning of her death.
“Hannah was a talented musician, part of a serving team at her local church and a member of her local archeological group,” the statement said. “She was an enthusiastic rugby player and a keen Derby County [Football Club] supporter. She was driven and passionate, and her death leaves so much promise unfulfilled. Our family is devastated by this senseless and tragic attack.”
Bladon began her studies at the Hebrew University in January and was expected to complete the program in September. She took courses on Bible studies, archeology and religion, according to the university.
The university extended condolences to Bladon’s family in a statement on Friday.
“The university condemns such acts of terrorism and murder that hurt innocents who have come to Jerusalem to learn and to enrich their academic knowledge,” it said. “The university’s administration and staff members are providing all the necessary support to all the students, staff members and families in Israel and abroad. May her memory be for a blessing.”
Shortly after arriving at the Hebrew University, Bladon penned a Facebook post in which she reassured her loved ones that she was faring well in Israel, despite the tense security situation in the capital.
“Security is really tight on campus so no worries at the moment!” she wrote. “Managed to see a lot of sites before starting my classes today so defo [definitely] having a great time! Xx.”
Rosenfeld said heightened security remains in effect in the capital, as more than 50,000 Christians gathered on Saturday for the Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter.
Friday’s murder marks the second stabbing attack this month by a Palestinian terrorist near the Old City.
Two Jewish teenagers and a police officer were stabbed on April 1 in the Muslim Quarter by an Arab assailant who was shot and killed.
Four days earlier, Siham Rateb Nimir, a 49-year-old woman from east Jerusalem, was shot dead by border policeman after she tried to use a pair of scissors to stab an officer stationed near the Damascus Gate.
Meanwhile, on April 6, a terrorist rammed his vehicle into two soldiers at a bus stop near the entrance to the West Bank settlement of Ofra, resulting in the death of Sgt. Elchai Teharlev. A second soldier sustained light wounds.
Prior to Passover, security forces predicted an uptick in violence in the capital during the holiday.
More than 3,500 officers from multiple units have been dispatched throughout the city, with an emphasis on the Old City, since Monday.
“Heightened security is continuing in Jerusalem to prevent any other attacks,” Rosenfeld said.Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.