A Palestinian man stabbed commuters on a Tel Aviv bus during rush hour Wednesday morning, injuring some 17 people, several seriously, police said.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said it was a terror attack.
Four of the victims were hospitalized in serious condition, another five were left in a moderate condition, and the remaining were lightly injured according to media reports.
The attacker was identified as a Palestinian from the West Bank city of Tulkarem, 23. He was shot after a short chase, during which he continued to stab people on the street, and taken into police custody.
He was named later as Hamza Matrouk, 23, a resident of the West Bank refugee camp of Tulkarem. He had crossed into Israel illegally. Matrouk said he was motivated to carry out the terror attack by the Israel-Hamas war this summer, and recent tensions surrounding the Temple Mount. He also said he had seen and been influenced by material promising paradise to “martyrs” who kill Jews, investigators who questioned him said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed incitement against Israel by the Palestinian Authority, and its head Mahmoud Abbas, for the attack. Hamas praised the attack as heroic. Caricatures praising the attack emerged on Hamas-affiliated news websites. Safa News Agency published an image of a knife painted in the colors of the Palestinian flag dripping blood and a tarnished Israeli flag in the background, with the caption “Good morning Palestine.”
The attack occurred at about 7:30 a.m. on a No. 40 bus heading north through the city from Bat Yam.
The attacker first stabbed the bus driver, Herzl Biton, who attempted to fight back, including using pepper spray or tear gas, before attacking others as passengers attempted to escape the scene. Biton, who managed to bring the bus to a halt despite being stabbed in the upper body, fought the attacker and opened the doors for passengers to flee, was among those seriously injured.
Officers from a prison service who happened to be nearby and saw the bus swerving out of control and a man running away, gave chase, shot the man in the leg, wounding him lightly and subsequently arrested him.
The incident happened at the Maariv Bridge, which spans a main artery in the city and was packed with rush hour traffic at the time.
Initial reports said prison service officers who were driving past the scene during the attack saw the assailant making his escape on foot and gave pursuit before shooting him in the leg.
Photographs from the scene that were posted to the Internet showed the attacker lying on the ground in handcuffs.
Video emerged of the suspected attacker after he was shot by officers.
WARNING: Graphic content.
סרטון מהזירה בתל אביב לא קל לצפיה ראו הוזהרתם ( קלה)#פיגוע
Posted by Pub-leak on otrdiena, 2015. gada 20. janvāris
The attacker was reported to have illegally crossed from the West Bank into Israel several days before.
Ambulances and police vehicles filled the Maariv Bridge intersection, and police officers closed off the site after the stabbing attack, snarling traffic throughout the economic center.
Police and the Shin Bet Security Services officers began searching for possible accomplices who may have helped the attacker, and also upped readiness in case of possible copy cat attacks.
The incident came after several months of relative calm which followed a spate of terror attacks, many involving stabbings, during the fall months.
On November 10, soldier Almog Shiloni was stabbed to death in an attack outside a Tel Aviv train station.
The stabbing is the latest in a type of “lone-wolf” attacks that have plagued Israel in recent months. About a dozen people have been killed in Palestinian attacks, including five people killed with guns and meat cleavers in a bloody assault on a Jerusalem synagogue.
Israeli officials say the attacks stem from incitement by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders.