At the scene: A brief, vicious brush with terror

"It just happened here, next time [an attack] will happen somewhere else," said Liz Rami, opening her store at one of Tel Aviv's busiest junctions came back to life after the stabbing attack.

Israeli police officers carry on a stretcher a Palestinian man who stabbed up to 10 people in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli police officers carry on a stretcher a Palestinian man who stabbed up to 10 people in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
For almost two hours on Wednesday morning, one of central Tel Aviv’s busiest junctions was gripped with fear and adrenaline, as dozens of witnesses and journalists recounted the city’s first lonewolf terrorist attack in over two months.
Kazis Metzliyah, the head of the traffic division for the Dan bus company, was one of the first to hear about the attack. Around 7:30 a.m.
his phone rang, and on the other end was Herzl Biton, the driver of the No. 40 bus.
Recording of call to MDA during Tel Aviv terror attack
Moments earlier, Biton had been stabbed repeatedly by the attacker, whom the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) named as 23-year-old Hamza Muhammad Hassan Matruch from Tulkarm. “He told me he was going to die, and if he does, to take care of his children for him,” Metzliyah said during a series of interviews on the pavement Wednesday morning.
A few meters away, the bus sat parked on the side of Menachem Begin Street, while crime scene officers filed in and out, taking specimens and snapping photos. Dozens of police officers secured the scene and spoke to one another in a series of huddles, while here and there, stone-faced plainclothes security men milled through the crowd and scribbled on notepads. A few rubbernecks hovered behind the TV reporters, lingering in the camera frame, though there were fewer bystanders than usual for a Tel Aviv terrorist attack.
Moses Collins witnessed the attack from a second No. 40 bus riding behind the one where the attack happened.
He saw people running off the bus in front of him, he said, but didn’t understand why at the time. His bus stopped, and the passengers got off and gathered on the pavement, unsure of what had happened on the bus in front of them.
Collins said he had seen the attacker run south down Menachem Begin and then disappear off a side street.
Standing at the scene on Wednesday, one could piece together the timeline of the attack – if one just followed the blood. The droplets and small puddles started a little over 100 meters south of the junction on Menachem Begin, where the police tape ran across the street and around the intersection’s entire eastern half. Along the way, there were several blood puddles along the sidewalk, trailing east down Yitzhak Sadeh and into a parking lot on the street, following the terrorist’s path back to the end of the lot and past a fence, where he was apprehended on the way to Hamasger Street.
By about 9 a.m., most of the blood stains were gone.
ZAKA volunteers with rags and bottles of water washed the pavement clean, working to return the area to rush hour as quickly as possible.
The blood remained in the parking lot around the corner, where Ezra Malfout, a middle- aged employee of the lot, stood helping a customer.
“They’re lucky I was a medic in a combat unit. Two of the victims were stabbed and laid here, and I helped them and stopped the bleeding until the paramedics came,” he said.
He added that he had seen the attacker flee through his parking lot with knife in hand, chasing two victims with what Malfout said seemed like a clear intent to kill. Malfout said he had taken out a metal rod and chased the man away from the two victims.
“If I’d had a gun, I would have shot him right there,” he said.
A few meters away, Liz Rami was just starting her work day at a car dealership. She said police had told her they’d come by to take surveillance footage from the office’s cameras, which had captured some of the attack while she was still on her way to work.
Asked how she felt, knowing there had been a violent terrorist attack just outside her workplace, she said she wasn’t afraid at all. But her arms were crossed and she seemed apprehensive, and she eventually admitted she felt uneasy.
“It’s scary, but it’s not like it’s going to happen again right here. It just happened here; next time it’ll be somewhere else,” she said.
By then, police had taken down the crime scene tape and opened the street to traffic, which hummed and honked down the busy Tel Aviv intersection after its short, vicious brush with terror.