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‘It was either me or him’: Officer recounts tussle with Jerusalem stabber

Staff Sgt. M describes Sunday’s struggle with Palestinian assailant at Damascus Gate, realizing that ‘no matter what happens — I can’t let go of him’

Police chief Kobi Shabtai and Border Police chief Amir Cohen visit first sergeant M at the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem after he was stabbed by a Palestinian assailant at Jerusalem's Damascus Gate, on May 9, 2022. (Israel Police)
Police chief Kobi Shabtai and Border Police chief Amir Cohen visit first sergeant M at the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem after he was stabbed by a Palestinian assailant at Jerusalem's Damascus Gate, on May 9, 2022. (Israel Police)

A Border Police officer who was stabbed by a Palestinian assailant at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate on Sunday evening recounted on Monday the moments that led to the attack.

In his first interview since the incident, the officer, identified only as Staff Sgt. M, spoke to Channel 12 from his hospital bed at Hadassah University Hospital at Mount Scopus in Jerusalem.

“I remember the incident in detail. We were manning a position at Damascus Gate and noticed [the man] acting in a suspicious way. We called him for a security check and began questioning him,” M said, noting that his team’s suspicions grew after noticing that his language did not correspond with the place he said he was from.

“Suddenly, the terrorist drew a knife and jumped me and my friends with the aim of harming us. I wrestled with him and with his first swing of the knife he hit me.”

Other officers at the scene who witnessed the attack shot the suspect — named as 20-year-old Nadheer Marzouq, from the West Bank town of Abwein, north of Ramallah. He was taken to Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem for medical treatment.

“My friends responded in the most amazing way I could have imagined,” M said. “They engaged [the assailant] and tried not to hurt me in the process. I was worried that if I got up the terrorist would try to attack me or one of my friends again.”

Police special forces at the scene of a terror attack, at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, on May 8, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The brain works automatically,” he said, describing tackling the assailant. “I realized it was either me or him. I realized that no matter what happens — I can’t let go of him.”

According to police, the suspect was carrying two knives on his person during the attack.

Staff Sgt. A, who was commanding the team that neutralized the terrorist, described M’s quick response as “determination and bravery.”

Speaking to Channel 12, he said: “One of my officers identified a suspicious individual. He was sitting on a staircase under our booth and wearing a wool coat that didn’t reflect the weather. Twenty minutes later, the same suspect gets up and starts walking toward a nearby crosswalk. Two of my officers called him for a checkup. The suspect was mumbling and trying to avoid talking to us. He tried to evade questioning. I called him into the booth. When he came in, I asked the officer to take his bag. He walked toward me and tried to stab me.

“The officer who was standing behind him jumped on him and hugged him from the back… he started wrestling with him on the ground and we looked for a clean shot.”

Asked to describe the terrorist, A said he only remembered “an inscrutable face full of anger.”

Handout photo from police of the knives carried by a Palestinian assailant near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, on May 8, 2022. (Israel Police)

Another unnamed Border Police officer who was on the scene and took part in subduing the assailant told Channel 12 that it was clear to her that he was looking to hurt civilians.

“I’m still processing the situation,” she said. “It was clear to us that the terrorist didn’t want to hurt officers, he wanted to hurt innocent civilians, victims who can’t respond. That’s why he was scanning the area. I’m happy we were the ones to take the hit and not a civilian,” she added.

Following the incident, Staff Sgt. M was visited in the hospital by Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and Border Police chief Amir Cohen, who commended him for his actions.

“You responded exactly as expected,” Shabtai told the officer. “Your instinct to jump the terrorist and overcome him alongside the actions taken by your teammates, for neutralizing him from point-blank range without hurting you, is real professionalism,” the police chief said, adding that “your actions saved the lives of many citizens.”

First sergeant M at the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem after being stabbed by a Palestinian assailant at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, on May 9, 2022. (Israel Police)

M told Channel 12 that the experience had not deterred him from returning to service.

“I reached the Border Police unit after a three-year service in the IDF and after completing its officers’ course. After I recover, I plan on staying in the security establishment and returning to my daily life,” he said.

The attack came hours after two Palestinians were arrested for a deadly terror attack in the central city of Elad last week.

Tensions have risen sharply between Israel and the Palestinians in recent months against the backdrop of repeated terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank that have left 19 dead.

The Israeli army has stepped up its West Bank activities in an attempt to crack down on the spiraling violence. The ensuing raids sparked clashes that have left at least 27 Palestinians dead since mid-March. Many of those took part in the clashes, while others appeared to have been civilians.

Tobias Siegal and Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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