Israeli security officials said Wednesday’s fatal attack at the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, in which Border Police officer Hadar Cohen was killed and a second policewoman badly injured, marked “an escalation” in the ongoing terror wave.
The three West Bank Palestinians who stabbed and shot at the Israeli forces had been sitting and waiting for a large group of Israeli civilians to enter or leave the Old City, and had planned to target them, Israel’s Channel 2 news reported on Wednesday evening, citing police sources.
“As far as we can tell from the armaments, [the terrorists] planned a larger, more sophisticated attack,” Jerusalem Deputy Police Chief Avshalom Peled said. “This is an escalation from what we’ve seen thus far. The police officers prevented a combined and much larger attack.”
Husam Badran, an official with the Hamas terror group, also called the attack “a turning point,” apparently referring to its severity and sophistication during a terror wave that has mostly consisted of lone stabbers.
Two of the three attackers, who hailed from the northern West Bank, were spotted by the Border Police unit and were asked to identify themselves. As one pulled out an ID card, the second pulled out a knife, and attacked the policewomen. Then the first one pulled out a rifle from under his coat and opened fire on the policewomen.
At this point, the third attacker, waiting nearby, who had not previously been spotted, also began firing, Channel 2 said.
Cohen, 19, who was shot in the head, managed to return fire before collapsing.
The three terrorists were also found to be carrying explosive devices.
The police and Shin Bet were investigating whether the trio acted alone, or had been dispatched by an established terrorist organization. They were also trying to establish whether the trio traveled with their guns and explosives, or whether accomplices helped them once they were in Jerusalem.
One of three terrorists had vowed in a Facebook post to carry out a shooting attack, Channel 2 reported, ostensibly to avenge the killing of another Palestinian who attempted an attack at a border crossing in the northern West Bank last November.
The TV report said all three of the attackers were members of families associated with Fatah.
The three were identified by the Palestinian news agency Ma’an as Ahmad Rajeh Ismail Zakarneh, Muhammad Ahmad Hilmi Kamil and Najeh Ibrahim Abu al-Rub, all hailing from the village of Qabatiya near the West Bank city of Jenin.