After deadly terror attack, police chief urges ‘return to normal’
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After deadly terror attack, police chief urges ‘return to normal’

Roni Alsheikh hails resilience of Jerusalemites, assures residents law enforcement is ‘densely’ deployed in capital

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh arrives at the scene of a terror attack at the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on October 9, 2016. (Shlomi Cohen/Flash90)
Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh arrives at the scene of a terror attack at the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on October 9, 2016. (Shlomi Cohen/Flash90)

Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh on Sunday urged Jerusalemites to return to their daily lives after a Palestinian gunman killed two people and injured five others in a shooting attack in the capital hours earlier.

The terror attack, in which an East Jerusalem man opened fire on pedestrians and police from a car on a busy thoroughfare, came amid a tense calm that had settled over Jerusalem after months of assaults — mostly stabbings — appeared to tail off.

Officials, though, had feared attacks could ramp back up with the onset of the fall holiday season, and extra forces had been deployed in the capital weeks ago following a several-day spate of isolated attacks.

“We are densely deployed in Jerusalem, but for now there is no change in the assessment of the situation,” Alsheikh told reporters at Ammunition Hill, where the East Jerusalem resident opened fire at pedestrians and police over a several-hundred-meter stretch adjacent to Route 1.

“The public is strong, the public in Jerusalem is well versed and know how to return to normal, and I also hope the public trusts the police,” he said.

Alsheikh called on Jerusalemites “not to change their daily life,” and to “return to normal.”

The fatalities in the Sunday morning terror attack were named as bystander Levana Malihi, about 60, and police officer Yosef Kirma, approximately 30 years old, who was involved in a shootout with the terrorist.

The attacker, identified by police as a 39-year-old Silwan resident, was shot and killed in the shootout.

His name was kept under wraps by a police gag order.

According to reports, the gunman was to report to prison on Sunday to serve a sentence for incitement.

He told Ma’an news in an interview published Saturday that he had been arrested several times in the last two weeks and threatened with administrative detention if he did not report for prison on an assault rap.

But Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said police had no prior warning the gunman, who had an Israeli ID denoting citizenship or permanent residency, was planning this attack.

Israeli forensic policemen collect evidence from a car belonging to a victim following a shooting attack near the Israeli police headquarter on October 9, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)
Israeli forensic policemen collect evidence from a car belonging to a victim following a shooting attack near the Israeli police headquarters on October 9, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)

The attack began as the gunman drove by police headquarters on Haim Bar-Lev Street, a main artery also served by the city’s light rail, and opened fire at a group of people, hitting one woman, police said.

He sped off toward Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau Street and shot a woman who was in her car, critically wounding her.

He continued toward the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Police officers on motorcycles from the city’s Special Patrol Unit saw the shooting and gave chase, police said.

The assailant then opened fire at the officers, who shot and “neutralized him,” police said.

During the shootout, one officer was fatally injured and another lightly to moderately injured, police said.

A video that was released on social media (below) appeared to show the shootout between police officers and the terrorist.

The attack broke a spell of calm in the capital that followed a months-long wave of violence last autumn and winter, which included several attacks near Ammunition Hill.

Officials had feared a return to stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks with the onset of the fall holiday season, when religious tensions often spike.

October 2015 marked the start of several months of near-daily attacks during which at least 34 Israelis and over 200 Palestinians were killed in a spate of attacks. Most of the Palestinians killed were attackers or involved in clashes with troops.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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