Several Jewish gravestones at the cemetery on the Mount of Olives were found desecrated Friday afternoon, hours after a Palestinian man from East Jerusalem’s Ras al-Amud, which is adjacent to the site, injured five people in a car attack.
It is not clear if the two incidents were connected but police said there would be “zero tolerance” for any attempts of public disturbances.
A Jerusalem city councilman, Aryeh King, who lives on Ma’ale Hazeitim, just south of the Mount of Olives and Ras al-Amud, told Ynet he and a few others who were called to the cemetery site pursued the perpetrators “who ran away when they saw us.”
King said police and Border Police units at the scene “just stood there for 15 minutes and did not respond.”
He alleged that the perpetrators initially prevented police from accessing the damaged site and were not met with a response. King said extensive damage was caused to some of the headstones.
Meanwhile, an Israeli car was firebombed Friday evening in Wadi Joz in East Jerusalem. There were no injuries but the car sustained some damage, Israel Radio reported.
Earlier Friday, Mohammad Salima, 21, rammed his car into a group of people standing on a sidewalk near a Jerusalem Light Rail station north of the city
Four of the wounded were young border policewomen, in their twenties, and the fifth was a civilian bicycle rider in his fifties.
After the car attack, Salima emerged from the vehicle with a butcher’s knife and attempted to stab passersby, but was swiftly shot and incapacitated by a Border Policeman and a Light Rail security guard at the scene.
The five victims suffered light-to-moderate injuries. They were treated at the scene by paramedics before being evacuated to the hospital. Two more border policewomen were treated at the scene for shock.
Salima was seriously injured. He, too, was taken to the hospital.
Salima had indicated he was planning an attack in a Facebook post on Thursday. His mother said Friday that she supported his action.
“The swift and determined response stopped the attack as it was beginning and prevented more innocents from being injured,” said Moshe Edri, a regional police commander.
The attack took place near a Border Police base on Shimon Hatzadik Street, on the line separating West and East Jerusalem.
“A young man rammed his car (into pedestrians), and then got out and tried to stab people” before being shot and wounded, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement.
Police units at the scene of attack in Jerusalem. 4 policewoman injured moderately taken to hospitals in Jerusalem. pic.twitter.com/yl8rOcHxhe
— Micky Rosenfeld (@MickyRosenfeld) March 6, 2015
Friday’s attack mirrored a spate of similar assaults on Israelis involving cars late last year, in the same part of Jerusalem.
In late October a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, who had served prison time for terror activities, slammed his car into a train platform in that part of the city, killing a baby girl and a young woman from Ecuador.
Two weeks later, a Palestinian man rammed his car into a crowded train platform in East Jerusalem and then attacked people with an iron bar, killing one person and injuring 13. Both attackers were shot by police and died of their wounds.
Since then, there had been a relative lull in tensions in the city, though last week, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and his bodyguard leapt from a car and apprehended an 18-year-old Palestinian after he stabbed an Israeli near City Hall.
Friday’s attack raised tensions in Jerusalem during the Purim holiday, and came a day after the Palestinian leadership said it would end security cooperation with the Jewish state in the West Bank.
Following the attack Barkat said that security in the capital would be heightened but that Purim events would go forward as planned.
“We will not allow terrorism to disrupt our daily lives and we will continue to fight it without compromise,” he stated.
Barkat also praised the response of security forces at the scene, “who brought the incident to a swift end and prevented further harm.”
The terrorist group Hamas praised the attack which it said in a statement was a “heroic action” and “a natural response to Israeli crimes.”
Officials say it is difficult to prevent such attacks, which appear to be carried out by “lone wolf” assailants who are not thought to be dispatched by a terrorist organization.
AP and AFP contributed to this report.