A Jewish man believed to be a terrorist was shot dead by soldiers near Jerusalem’s central bus station late Wednesday when he shouted “I am ISIS!” in Hebrew, and then lunged for one of the soldier’s guns.
According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, at approximately 11:30 p.m., Simcha Hodedtov, 28, initially drew the attention of the soldiers when he behaved erratically upon exiting an Egged bus across the street from the bus station.
“He was acting very suspiciously, and two IDF soldiers patrolling the area as part of Jerusalem’s heightened security suspected he may be a terrorist and asked him to present his identification, but the man said he refused to show it,” Rosenfeld said Thursday.
“When the soldiers began questioning him, he shouted ‘I am ISIS!’ and then lunged at them, trying to take a gun from one of the soldiers.
Unfortunately, as a result, he was shot and killed at the scene.”
Hodedtov, a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) man, lived in the Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem. He made aliya more than a decade ago from Dagestan in the Caucasus region, and had served in the Netzah Yehuda Battalion.
Neither of the soldiers was wounded in the scuffle, he said.
“Police are looking into his background and why he behaved like this,” Rosenfeld said. “Many different questions are being asked.”
The soldiers’ account of the struggle and shooting was corroborated during a subsequent joint investigation by police and the army, who viewed surveillance footage of the incident and interviewed the driver of the bus that the suspect exited.
CCTV footage released by police on Thursday shows Hodedtov fighting the soldiers while being subdued moments before he was shot.
“The bus driver who saw what was happening tried to help control him using a shocker, however, this person continued his attempt, allegedly, to snatch the weapon from the soldier,” police said.
“Nearby, a security guard spotted the struggle, ran to the scene and opened fire at the primary suspect. Another shooting was carried out by the soldiers themselves.”
Only after the man was shot dead was it made clear that he was a Jew from Jerusalem, police concluded.
ZAKA rescue and recovery chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav, who was at the scene, said he also initially thought the suspect was an Arab terrorist.
“When I arrived with the ZAKA team at the site of the supposed terrorist attack, it seemed to be a ‘standard’ current terrorist attack, a stabbing attempt, and the terrorist was apprehended,” he said.
“I wanted to cover the body in a black bag [reserved for terrorists]. After I was asked to take care of the body I saw that he was a Jew, and that it was mistake to speak of a terrorist. I immediately notified the police and we switched to a white ZAKA body bag.”
In the meantime, Rosenfeld said the massive police and IDF deployment to safeguard the capital against further terrorist attacks continues to expand across the city.
Moreover, he said police are asking residents to stay alert and contact security officials immediately if they see suspicious activity.
“Police call on the public to continue reporting suspicious people and to follow the directions of security personnel on the ground, who are working with determination to protect the public and restore peace to the city,” he said.
The capital remains at its highest state of security in the wake of a deadly wave of terrorism that has resulted in numerous roadblocks and checkpoints in flashpoint Arab neighborhoods, as well as the deployment of more than 5,000 Border Police officers and IDF soldiers to patrol the city.
No violence was reported on Thursday, police said.