A number of Israeli soldiers present at the truck-ramming terror attack in Jerusalem on Sunday shot at the terrorist within seconds of the attack starting, an initial IDF inquiry revealed, contradicting claims made by a guide who opened fire himself that the troops hesitated to respond or entirely failed to do so.
The probe also revealed that a group of soldiers, mainly IDF cadets, seen running from the scene were ordered to seek cover by an officer as the shooting began. Video footage from the attack, in which four soldiers — three cadets and one lieutenant — were killed and 16 were injured, showed members of the group scrambling to run away which sparked criticism for alleged failure to respond.
Earlier, the head of the IDF officers’ training school said that “at least two” of his cadets shot at the terrorist.
Col. Yaniv Alaluf, who commands the officers’ training course, visited the scene to conduct a preliminary investigation into the attack and the soldiers’ response.
Warning: Graphic footage
IDF spokesman Moti Almoz said, according to Israel Radio there was no indication and no reports that the soldiers hesitated to shoot for fear of what has been dubbed the “Elor Azaria effect,” a reference to the recent conviction for manslaughter of the IDF soldier who shot dead a wounded and incapacitated Palestinian attacker in Hebron last march. The assailant and an accomplice had earlier stabbed another soldier, wounding him lightly.
Following the attack, the army released a video of one of the two cadets who opened fire at the terrorist, detailing how he responded to the truck-ramming. The soldier, who serves in an intelligence unit, speaks with his back to the camera and could only be identified by his first initial, T., due to the sensitive nature of his position.
“First we thought it was an accident, but when the driver didn’t stop, we understood that it was a terror attack,” he said.
“We ran to the truck. I loaded a magazine, cocked my gun and fired at the attacker,” T. said.
Alaluf’s initial findings show that, in addition to T., at least one other soldier had opened fire at the attacker “from a close distance,” and it was possible that more soldiers had done the same, an army spokesperson said.
Another cadet rejected any allegation that her colleagues were scared to respond, writing on social media that “there is absolutely no connection to Elor Azaria,” according to Channel 2.
“No one should dare compare between a semi-trailer going 100 kilometers an hour and an incapacitated, supine terrorist. No one was afraid to shoot, people were afraid of being run over by a terrorist…with murder in his eyes,” she wrote, imploring that people “please stop listening to sources who don’t verify and post nonsense.”
Eitan Rund, a civilian tour guide who was with the soldiers and shot at the terrorist, said he felt the troops “hesitated” during the attack and blamed the Azaria case for their delay in responding.
“I’m a tour guide, I was supposed to be guiding groups of youths. We didn’t even manage to say hello before it all happened. I don’t understand why 40 soldiers who were there did not shoot,” said Rund.
Rund, who was lightly injured in the attack, specifically referred to the case of Azaria as a possible reason behind the troops not grabbing their weapons right away, presumably from fear that they too could one day face a military tribunal.
The driver of the vehicle was shot by both the soldiers and by Rund, police said. He died of his wounds.
Security camera footage of the incident shows chaos as soldiers scramble for cover and run away while the driver tries to reverse back into them. However, some soldiers can be seen rushing the truck.
The soldiers were part of a group of 300 noncombat cadets in an officers’ training course that was in Jerusalem as part of a cultural tour with the army, an IDF spokesperson said.
The terrorist, later identified as Fadi al-Qunbar from East Jerusalem, rammed his truck into the soldiers as they got off a bus at a promenade in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of Jerusalem.