Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv Wednesday morning to the wave of terror that struck Paris earlier this month, blaming the Palestinian leadership for incitement that led to the assault.
A chorus of Israeli politicians also condemned the attack, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman blaming Arab-Israeli lawmakers as well, even as the Hamas terror group praised the stabbing, which left 17 people injured, several seriously.
In a statement sent by his office shortly after the attack, Netanyahu lashed out at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for encouraging violence against Israeli civilians.
“The terrorist attack in Tel Aviv is the direct result of the poisonous incitement being disseminated by the Palestinian Authority against the Jews and their state,” Netanyahu said.
“This same terrorism is trying to attack us in Paris, Brussels and everywhere. It is Hamas – Abbas’s partners in a unity government – that hastened to commend this attack. This is the same Hamas that announced it will sue Israel at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Abbas is responsible for both the incitement and the dangerous move at the ICC in the Hague,” he said.
Liberman castigated senior Palestinian leaders and Arab Israeli lawmakers Hanin Zoabi and Ahmed Tibi over the incident and pledged to use a firm hand against those instigating terror attacks against Israeli citizens.
“Those responsible for this morning’s attacks are the same people who stand behind the riots in Rahat and the wave of terror that swept through Jerusalem: Abbas, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, Balad MK Hanin Zoabi and Ra’am-Ta’al MK Ahmad Tibi,” Liberman said, referring to simmering unrest in a Bedouin town in the south over police shootings.
“These people are committed to undermining Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. To them, it makes no difference if the attack takes place [over the 1967 lines] in Judea and Samaria, or in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem,” he said.
“We have to act forcefully against these people, who operate under different names and guises, but who are united in their common goal of killing Jews and eliminating the State of Israel,” he said.
Likewise, Labor chief Isaac Herzog called for an “uncompromising” war on terror and noted that the citizens of Israel have lost their “sense of security.”
“The security forces have our full support in combating terrorism … both within Israel’s borders and abroad,” Herzog said.
There was no immediate reaction to the incident from the Palestinian Authority, but senior Hamas official Izzat Al-Risheq of the Gaza-based terror group’s political bureau called the attack “a natural response to the occupation,” and praised the perpetrator for targeting “Zionists” in a “heroic and daring commando operation.”
No group has officially taken responsibility for the stabbing. The attacker was identified as a 23-year-old man from the West Bank town of Tulkarem, and was named on Palestinian social media as Hamza Muhammad Hassan Matruk. The name was not confirmed.
cartoon: terrorist praises the attack in Tel Aviv after stabbing 10 people on bus. on the sign: occupied Tel Aviv. pic.twitter.com/O8ruNGMVAu
— Gal Berger גל ברגר (@galberger) January 21, 2015
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich said that while a police investigation is still underway, such lone-wolf terror attacks are often difficult to track or prevent.
“We are still checking whether or not this was [an organized attack],” Aharonovich said.
“We’ve seen similar things previously in Tel Aviv and also in Jerusalem: a terrorist simply leaves his house and decides to commit an attack. These kind of [lone-wolf] incidents are often mimicked by other [opportunistic terrorists],” he said.
Likud MK Yariv Levin said that Wednesday’s event is further evidence that Palestinian terror groups are not interested in peace and vowed that the government will work to protect Israel’s citizens.
“This is another reminder that we are locked in a continuous [battle for our security]. Terror organizations continue their attempts to harm each and every one of us,” Levin said.
“These groups do not take election breaks, and likewise, we will continue to engage them during this strenuous period … to ensure the safety and security of Israel’s citizens,” he said.
Australia’s ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, expressed dismay over the incident and offered his well wishes to the victims.
Very distressed by news emerging of serious stabbing attack on bus in Tel Aviv. Hoping that those injured survive.
— Chris Cannan
Canadian member of parliament James Lunney condemned the stabbing and panned officials in the international community who demand that Israel “overlook [Palestinian] terror in the pursuit of peace.”
— James Lunney (@jameslunneymp) January 21, 2015