A six-year-old boy and a 20-year-old man were killed and at least five others were wounded in a car-ramming terror attack near East Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood, police and medics said Friday. One of those wounded was a child in critical condition, the brother of the slain six-year-old.
Graphic footage from the scene showed several people strewn on the ground after a blue Mazda vehicle crashed into a bus stop south of the Nebi Samuel site, between Jerusalem and the Palestinian city of Ramallah.
Several bystanders were seen aiming firearms at the car. Police said the driver was shot dead by an officer who happened to be at the scene.
The attacker was identified as Hussein Qaraqa, 31, an Israeli citizen and resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya. Eyewitnesses said he accelerated into the group of Israelis waiting at the bus stop. A senior Israeli official said it is believed he was mentally ill, and was released from a psychiatric hospital in northern Israel only days ago.
Police designated the incident as a terror attack.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service said the boy, 6, was pronounced dead at the scene. He was named as Yaakov Yisrael Paley. Paley was quickly buried Friday afternoon before the start of Shabbat, in accordance with Jewish law.
The second victim was identified as Alter Shlomo Lederman, a 20-year-old yeshiva student who had gotten married two months ago. He and his wife had been on their way to his parents’ home for Shabbat. Lederman was rushed to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in critical condition, where he succumbed to his wounds.
Six-year-old Paley’s brother, aged eight, was in critical condition at Shaare Zedek. Their father, 42, was moderately wounded.
Some reports in Hebrew-language media claimed Lederman had been shot during the incident, and was not rammed. But a police spokesperson denied this and said an officer had checked the bodies and found that both victims had been hurt by the car-ramming and not gunshots.
The other casualties included two men in their 20s in serious condition and a 10-year-old boy in light condition, medical officials said.
They were taken to the Shaare Zedek and Hadassah Mount Scopus hospitals in the capital.
Police said a large number of forces were at the scene, and later detained ten relatives of the terrorist in Issawiya and A-Tur, including his parents, his brother, his wife, and his landlord.
Qaraqa’s Facebook page included posts hailing attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians. In a post last August, Qaraqa hailed the leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad Ziad Nakhaleh. In a more recent post last December, Qaraqaa memorialized the members of the northern West Bank’s Lions Den after several were killed in an IDF operation. Lions Den has been responsible for numerous shooting attacks beyond the Green Line over the past year.
The terrorist also published many posts glorifying attacks carried out and wrote: “Glory to the pure souls” while referring to the attackers.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the premier was being updated on the attack and had decided to seal the home of the attacker.
“On behalf of all the citizens of Israel, I send my condolences to the families of those murdered in the attack in Jerusalem. I conducted a security assessment and ordered an increase in forces, to carry out arrests and act immediately to seal the terrorist’s house and demolish it,” Netanyahu said.
As a matter of policy, Israel demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly terror attacks. Sealing the homes of attackers is often a replacement or stopgap for demolishing them. Last month, police welded the doors and windows shut of the home of a Palestinian terrorist who killed seven in Jerusalem, as a temporary move ahead of its full demolition.
President Isaac Herzog noted the attack came just before Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest.
“Just before Shabbat and our hearts ache with terrible pain after a despicable terrorist took the lives of a small child and a young man in a ramming attack in Jerusalem,” Herzog said.
“Together with all the people of Israel, I feel the pain of the families and pray for the healing of the wounded,” he said.
Speaking at the scene, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said he had ordered police to set up roadblocks around Issawiya, where the terrorist came from “as a deterrent.”
“We have to act with determination and aggression to protect our children,” he said.
Ben Gvir, of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, said that he wanted to “completely besiege” the neighborhood, but there were legal problems with this, adding that he was continuing to work to pass legislation calling for the death penalty for terrorists.
After his remarks, several angry bystanders shouted at the minister. “The biggest terror attacks were on your watch,” one said, while a group of Ben Gvir supporters chanted “death to terrorists.” Two Fridays ago, seven Israelis were killed in a terror shooting attack near a synagogue in the capital’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood.
In a later statement, Ben Gvir called on police to “prepare plans for Operation Defensive Shield 2 in East Jerusalem,” referring to the Israeli military’s operations in the West Bank during the Second Intifada in the early 2000s.
“Ben Gvir instructed the police to ready and prepare plans for Operation Defensive Shield 2 in East Jerusalem starting this coming Sunday, to deal with the terror nests in East Jerusalem,” his office said.
In response, a senior government official was quoted in Hebrew media outlets saying “decisions of such a scale are not made in statements by one minister or another on a sidewalk at the scene of an attack.”
The official said the prime minister will decide on any operation only after conferring with the security establishment and after an orderly discussion in the cabinet.
The Office of Palestinian Affairs in the US Embassy in Jerusalem issued a condemnation of the attack. “We urge steps to prevent further escalation. We will continue our efforts with leaders in Israel and the West Bank to work towards restoring calm,” it tweeted.
US Ambassador Tom Nides added, “Incredibly sorrowful news that a vicious terrorist attack has killed a small boy and a young man in Jerusalem today. I want to express my deepest condolences to the families of the victims and pray for a speedy recovery for the wounded.”
The UN’s Mideast envoy Tor Wenessland tweeted that “such horrific attacks and their glorification are fueling an endless cycle of bloodshed and should be condemned by all. Leaders must act responsibly.”
“I call upon all concerned parties to protect the prospect for a political solution to the mounting security crises & refrain from unilateral actions that will further aggravate the situation on the ground,” he added.
The United Arab Emirates expressed condolences and “strong condemnation of these criminal acts.”
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas terror groups, the latter of which rules the Gaza Strip, praised the attack but stopped short of claiming responsibility.
A Hamas spokesperson called the attack “a heroic response to the crimes of the occupation.”
The attack came at a time of rising violence in the region, with the Israeli military pressing on with an anti-terror offensive in the West Bank to deal with a series of attacks that left 31 people in Israel dead in 2022, and seven more in the shooting attack in Neve Yaakov last month.
The IDF’s operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids. It also left 171 Palestinians dead in 2022, and another 42 since the beginning of the year, many of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, though some were uninvolved civilians.