Former President Shimon Peres briefed US Vice President Joe Biden on a deadly stabbing spree that took as two were meeting Tuesday evening, minutes from the site of the attack.
Biden landed at Ben Gurion International Airport in late afternoon, as Israel reeled from two attacks — in Jerusalem and in Petah Tikva — and made his way to a meeting with Peres in the Peres Peace Center (PCC) in Jaffa.
On his way to the meeting, the third attack of the day was unfolding just minutes from the Peres Center building. The sirens of ambulances rushing to the scene of the attack were clearly audible as Peres greeted Biden.
While Biden and Peres did not refer to the attack in their public comments, which were made as the incident was still ongoing, Peres said afterwards that he had Biden updated on the events.
“He wanted to know all the details, the names of the families and the condition of the victims,” Peres said.
“Throughout the meeting we learned more and more details of the incident and the victims and we were in agreement that there can be no compromise in the war on terror whether in Israel or in the United States,” Peres added.
Biden “condemned in the strongest possible terms the brutal attack which occurred in Jaffa during his meeting with President Peres, and commented that there is no justification for such acts of terror,” the Peres Center said later. “He expressed his sorrow at the tragic loss of American life and offered his condolences to the family of the American citizen murdered in the attack, as well as his wishes for a full and quick recovery for the wounded.”
US Army veteran and Vanderbilt graduate student Taylor Force, 29, was killed and at least 10 people were injured during the attack in Jaffa. Five of the injured were described as being in critical condition.
Bashar Massalha, 22 of the West Bank city of Qalqilya, stabbed his victims in at least three locations in an attack that lasted some 20 minutes, reports said. The attacker was shot dead by police after a chase from the Jaffa Port along the Tel Aviv beach promenade.
Earlier in the day one Israeli man was injured on Petah Tikva’s central Brosh Street when a Palestinian assailant followed him into a shop and stabbed him several times in the upper body. The victim, Yonatan Azarihab, an ultra-Orthodox father of five, managed to remove the knife from his neck and used it to stab and kill his attacker, aided by the store owner, police said.
Minutes later, two Israeli Border Police officers were seriously injured, with one of them described as “critical,” in a drive-by shooting attack on Salah a-Din Street, near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate. The gunman, riding a motorcycle, opened fire at the officers, striking one in the head. As he attempted to escape the scene, security forces engaged him in a firefight, during which he shot the second officer, police said. The shooter was killed.
In his public comments, Peres said Israel was battling terror attacks, and was also battling for peace, and specifically a two-state solution.
Biden responded saying the US has “absolutely, total unvarnished commitment to the security of Israel.” He also said he hoped “we can make some progress” during his meetings in Israel and in the West Bank on Wednesday.
Following their meeting, the two met briefly with several Israeli and Palestinian girls who participate in the Peres Center’s Girls Football program, which promotes friendship and understanding between Israeli and Palestinian youth through sports, according to a statment released by the Office of the Vice President.
Biden and his wife Jill were greeted at the airport by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, and US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro at Ben-Gurion Airport before making their way to Jaffa for the meeting with Peres.
On Wednesday Biden will confer with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and then meet President Reuven Rivlin before moving on to Ramallah to see Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He will leave on Thursday for Jordan.
Police said major roads would be closed and security boosted as Biden traveled around the area.
The trip will include talks in Israel on US economic and energy interests, as well as security concerns about Iran and Syria, the White House said.
Central to the discussions are expected to be the finalizing of a new 10-year defense aid package, which Israeli officials are looking to boost beyond the $3.1 billion it currently receives annually.
Talks will also include discussions on neighboring Syria and fighting terror. Biden, who has been involved in American efforts to smooth out relations with Turkey, may also discuss detente efforts between Ankara and Jerusalem.