An East Jerusalem resident who rammed his car into Jewish pedestrians in Jerusalem last week, killing one and seriously injuring another, confessed that the incident was a deliberate terror attack, the Shin Bet security service said on Tuesday.
Khaled Koutineh, 37, of Anata — parts of which are located within Jerusalem’s city limits — was arrested after he rammed his car into a bus stop in the capital Wednesday night and interrogated by police and Shin Bet investigators. Koutineh’s lawyer and family had maintained that the incident was an accidental crash and not a deliberate attack.
However, during questioning, Koutineh confessed that he carried out the attack after making a spur-of-the-moment decision to target Israeli Jews with his car, the Shin Bet said in a statement.
Koutineh said he cruised along Highway 1 in the capital looking for targets on the side of the road. He said he identified the ethnicity of his eventual victims by the way they were dressed.
He told Shin Bet interrogators that he suffers from mental health problems and had feigned insanity during a psychological assessment after his arrest. However, the Shin Bet asserted that his eventual confession showed that the attack was premeditated.
The Israel Police said in a statement that the psychological assessment found Koutineh fit to stand trial.
Shalom Yohai Sherki, 25, was killed in the attack. Sherki, the son of prominent Rabbi Ouri Sherki, died of his injuries on Thursday morning and was buried later that day. Shira Klein, Sherki’s girlfriend, remains in hospital in critical condition.
Police on Tuesday released further details on the attack. At around 10:30 p.m. on April 15 — the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel — Koutineh drove along Highway 1 in the direction of the Pisgat Zeev neighborhood, police said. He waited for a red light at a junction opposite the national police headquarters, and then, when the signal turned green, he accelerated into the opposite lane, drove up on to the sidewalk and rammed into Sherki and Klein, who were waiting for a bus. As he reversed away from the carnage his vehicle crashed into a traffic light and was apprehended by police who arrived at the scene.
The capital has seen a spate of car-ramming attacks over the past year, in which Palestinian “lone-wolf” assailants have used their vehicles as weapons to mow down Israeli civilians. Such attacks are usually spontaneous and are not thought to be directly orchestrated by terror groups.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.