IDF says 2 soldiers fired at attacker, despite report of hesitation

Army says there is no connection between troops’ response to Sunday’s truck-ramming and the Hebron shooter case

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

The head of the IDF officers’ training school said that “at least two” of his cadets shot at the terrorist who rammed his truck into a group of soldiers in Jerusalem on Sunday, in the face of a claim made by a guide who opened fire himself that the troops hesitated to respond or entirely failed to do so.

The army also said there was no connection between the soldiers’ response to the truck-ramming and the recent Hebron shooting case, in which IDF soldier Elor Azaria was convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian assailant many minutes after he was incapacitated.

After the attack, Col. Yaniv Alaluf, who commands the officers’ training course, visited the scene to conduct a preliminary investigation into the truck-ramming, in which four soldiers were killed and 16 more were injured, the army said.

Eitan Rund, a civilian tour guide who was with the soldiers and shot at the terrorist, said he felt the troops “hesitated” during the attack and blamed the Azaria case for their delay in responding.

“I’m a tour guide, I was supposed to be guiding groups of youths. We didn’t even manage to say hello before it all happened. I don’t understand why 40 soldiers who were there did not shoot,” said Rund.

Eitan Rund speaking to reporters from Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem on January 8, 2017. (screen capture: Channel 2)
Eitan Rund speaking to reporters from Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem on January 8, 2017. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Rund, who was lightly injured in the attack, specifically referred to the case of Azaria as a possible reason behind the troops not grabbing their weapons right away, presumably from fear that they too could one day face a military tribunal.

The driver of the vehicle was shot by both the soldiers and by Rund, police said. He died of his wounds.

Security camera footage of the incident shows chaos as soldiers scramble for cover and run away while the driver tries to reverse back into them. However, some soldiers can be seen rushing the truck.

Warning: Graphic content

The soldiers were part of a group of 300 noncombat cadets in an officers’ training course that was in Jerusalem as part of a cultural tour with the army, an IDF spokesperson said.

The terrorist, later identified as Fadi al-Qunbar from East Jerusalem, rammed his truck into the soldiers as they got off a bus at a promenade in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Following the attack, the army released a video of one of the two cadets who opened fire at the terrorist, detailing how he responded to the truck-ramming. The soldier, who serves in an intelligence unit, speaks with his back to the camera and could only be identified by his first initial, T., due to the sensitive nature of his position.

“First we thought it was an accident, but when the driver didn’t stop, we understood that it was a terror attack,” he said.

“We ran to the truck. I loaded a magazine, cocked my gun and fired at the attacker,” T. said.

Alaluf’s initial findings show that, in addition to T., at least one other soldier had opened fire at the attacker “from a close distance,” and it was possible that more soldiers had done the same, an army spokesperson said.

The spokesperson downplayed any hesitation by the soldiers, saying it was a “matter of seconds.”

However, he said, the IDF will continue to investigate the incident “in depth” to see why some soldiers fled the scene instead of attacking.

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