Scene of Jerusalem terror attack, November 5.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A pool of blood on the tracks of a Jerusalem light rail stop from a Border Police officer killed after being run down by an Arab terrorist Wednesday afternoon indelibly marked the latest tragedy to stain a capital already beleaguered by rampant violence.
Three other officers, also struck by the white van driven by 38-year-old Shuafat resident Ibrahim al-Aqari, were transported to an area hospital in serious condition.
Less than 500 meters away, 10 other pedestrians were seriously wounded after Aqari plowed into them and then exited the vehicle with a metal rod to attack bystanders before being repeatedly shot and killed by a police officer.
As a helicopter hovered above the scene straddling the Green Line near the primarily ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Shmuel Hanavi, the terrorist’s bullet-riddled body lay on the ground amid hundreds of yeshiva students from a nearby school who surrounded the crime scene.
“I saw the last few shots that killed him,” said James, a British-born student, who watched a Border Police officer fire at least 10 bullets at the terrorist. “There were four cops surrounding him and I could see the anxiety on the face of the one that shot him. The other officers tried to comfort him afterwards.”
Visibly shaken himself, James continued in hurried speech: “This is the first time I saw someone get killed.”
Another student, Yitzchok Bamberger, said he rushed to the scene after hearing a cacophony of police and ambulance sirens.
“I thought, ‘Oh no, another one happened,’” he said as he watched a small army of officers cordon off the intersection of Shimon Hatzadik and Moshe Zachs streets, where the smashed white van remained next to two mini-vans he crashed into before exiting his vehicle.
A child’s car seat from one of the mini-vans sat ominously on the street near shattered glass.
“Today it really hit home because I was here and it permeated my emotions,” said fellow student Joshua Levin, 23.
Asked if he felt safe, Levin paused.
“I feel safe, but the fact that something like this occurred so close to home makes me nervous,” he said.
“Not because I’m scared or afraid; just knowing this can happen so close to where I’m learning and live – it makes me uncomfortable.”
Jacob Miller expressed incredulity and outrage that Aqari targeted innocent bystanders.
“This is unfair and it’s not normal,” Miller said. “Did any of the pedestrians he hit have anything to do with the terrorist who knocked them over? Every couple of weeks there’s another tragedy going on. I’m happy that the media is here taking pictures so the world can see what’s happening.”
On October 23, a terrorist in a car struck and killed a three-month-old girl and an Ecuadorian national at the Ammunition Hill light rail stop just down the road. On August 5, a terrorist used a construction excavator to overturn an Egged bus, killing 29-year-old Avraham Wallis at the same intersection where the 10 people were struck by Aqari on Wednesday.
Last week, a terrorist shot and seriously wounded Rabbi Yehudah Glick outside the Menachem Begin Heritage Center closer to the city center.
In all cases, the attackers were killed by police.
“It’s safer to live in Hebron than Jerusalem today!” exclaimed Dov Green, another student. “You have to kill all the Arabs that want to kill us.
That’s what the Bible says. We should send all the radical Arabs to Jordan. If someone has a better solution, they should say it.”
A few meters from the carnage, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat spoke with shaken witnesses.
“This is not an easy day for the city of Jerusalem,” said a stoic Barkat. “Our hearts are crying... but we are very tough and we will move on with our lives. This will toughen us up.”
Minutes later, a near-riot broke out when Arab youths on a bus heading to the adjacent Sheik Jarrah neighborhood yelled expletives and made obscene gestures at the yeshiva students.
One of the students attempted to throw a rock at the bus as it turned a corner, while hundreds of others began running toward it before police stopped them.
Despite the destruction Aqari wrought, Mark, another student, said he marveled at watching paramedics attempt to revive him with CPR.
“Only in Israel,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief.