An indictment was filed Thursday in the Tel Aviv District Court against a Palestinian man who perpetrated a brazen stabbing attack on a Tel Aviv bus last month in which 17 people were injured, four of them seriously.
According to the indictment, Hamza Matrouk, 23, from the West Bank city of Tulkarem, was spurred to commit the terror attack in the wake of the war in Gaza, and sought to “kill as many Israelis as possible” and to become a “shahid,” or martyr, Channel 10 reported.
Prosecutors were seeking to charge Matrouk with attempted murder, criminal sabotage and illegal residence in Israel.
The attacker was expected to remain in custody as legal proceedings continued.
Armed with a knife, Matrouk boarded a busy Tel Aviv bus during morning rush hour on January 21, and after travelling for a few minutes proceeded to stab the bus driver and nearby commuters. He then exited the bus and continued to attack passersby on the street, before being shot and arrested by police.
Prosecutors said Martouk tried unsuccessfully to enlist fellow acquaintances from his neighborhood in the attack but they rebuffed his offers. In addition, he tried to solicit planning and financial assistance from the Gaza-based Hamas terror organization and attempted to ingratiate himself with members by attending mosque services.
According to the indictment, Matrouk believed it would be easier to carry out a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv than in Jerusalem or in and around checkpoints leading out of the West Bank, due to the beefed up security there following a spate of deadly terror attacks that rocked the capital late last year.
On the morning of January 21, Martouk first stabbed the bus driver, Herzl Biton, who attempted to fight back, including using pepper spray, before attacking others as they attempted to flee. Biton, who managed to bring the bus to a halt despite sustaining wounds to the upper body, struggled with the attacker and opened the doors for passengers to escape. He was among those seriously injured.
One woman who was admitted to hospital in critical condition was stabbed by Martouk twice — the first time on the bus and a second time while running away from him in the street.
Officers from the Israel Prison Service who happened to be nearby and saw the bus swerving out of control and a man running away, gave chase, shot him in the leg and subsequently arrested him.
The incident happened at the Maariv Bridge, which spans a main artery in the city and was packed with rush hour traffic at the time.
A video uploaded to the internet shortly after the attack showed part of the stabbing. A number of people can be seen fleeing down the street when, from the left side of the screen, the attacker races after a woman in a blue jacket and stabs in the back before running off down the street.
WARNING: Graphic content.
The stabbing was the latest in a series of “lone-wolf” attacks that plagued Israel in recent months. About a dozen Israelis have been killed in Palestinian terror attacks, including five people who were shot and hacked to death with meat cleavers in a bloody assault on a Jerusalem synagogue in November.
Israeli officials claim the attacks stemmed from incitement by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report