Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Friday that Jerusalem was a prime target for terrorists and warned that the next attack “cannot be prevented.”
At a security briefing following Friday’s car-ramming attack in the capital which wounded six border policewomen and a civilian, Aharonovitch said: “We do everything we can for Jerusalem, but I’m sorry to say the city is marked for terror attacks. We need to be alert and intelligence-gathering agencies need to do everything to thwart those attacks, but the next attack cannot be prevented.”
Israeli politicians were quick to condemn the attack and promised a tough response to terrorism.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the work of security forces who shot and incapacitated the terrorist, and sent well-wishes to the victims.
“We are resolved to continue and fight terrorism and to use all means necessary for this purpose,” he said in a statement.
Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid said in a statement that “terrorists who enter the state of Israel should know that they have signed their own death warrant…they won’t get out of it in one piece.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman cited one of his major campaign promises by stating that “only when terrorists know that any attack means a death sentence, will it be possible to significantly decrease the number of attacks.”
Likud Knesset Member Miri Regev accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of “incitement to murder” and claimed that anyone viewing the Palestinian leader as a partner for peace was living in a fantasy.
Yachad party leader Eli Yishai, the former head of Shas, said Israel must revoke the citizenship of anyone who carries out attacks. “There is no difference between a car attack, rock-throwing or Molotov cocktails. They are all intended to murder Jews,” he said.
Following the attack, Jerusalem Mayor Nir 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.”
Meanwhile, the terrorist group Hamas praised the attack which it said in a statement was a “heroic action” and “a natural response to Israeli crimes.”
Seven people were injured in the attack near a Jerusalem light rail station in the north of the city. Six of the wounded were young border policewomen, in their twenties, and the seventh was a civilian bicycle rider in his fifties.
The Palestinian attacker, Mohammad Salima, 21, from East Jerusalem’s Ras al-Amud, was in a private vehicle when he hit the six as they stood on a sidewalk. He then 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 seven victims suffered light-to-moderate injuries. Salima was seriously injured.
“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.
Friday’s attack mirrored a spate of similar assaults on Israelis involving cars late last year, in the same part of Jerusalem.
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.
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.