Report: Armed civilian tried to stop Jerusalem terrorist, IDF soldier didn’t
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Report: Armed civilian tried to stop Jerusalem terrorist, IDF soldier didn’t

As new details emerge about Sunday’s deadly attack in capital, Channel 10 says police wounded innocent man during search for shooter

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

Israeli security at a scene of a terror attack in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on October 9, 2016. (Shlomi Cohen/Flash90)
Israeli security at a scene of a terror attack in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on October 9, 2016. (Shlomi Cohen/Flash90)

An armed civilian attempted to shoot the terrorist who gunned down two people in a drive-by shooting attack in Jerusalem on Sunday, but was unable to as the assailant sped away, according to new details about the incident revealed by Israel’s Channel 10 News.

And while the civilian tried to stop the Palestinian gunman, an IDF soldier ran from the scene without firing his service weapon, according to the television news report on Thursday night.

Just after 10 a.m. on Sunday, Mesbah Abu Sabih, a 39-year-old resident of Silwan in East Jerusalem, drove a white Toyota to the light rail station at Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill and opened fire on a group of civilians, hitting one of them.

The civilian — who had a license for a handgun — attempted to shoot the assailant, but was unable to as the terrorist sped away. However, a soldier who was armed with a Micro Tavor assault rifle and present at the scene of the attack made no such effort to stop the gunman, Channel 10 said.

The terrorist sped off toward Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau Street, where he shot 60-year-old Levana Malihi in her car, fatally wounding her.

Police at a scene of a terror attack at the National Police Headquarters in Jerusalem, October 9, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Police at a scene of a terror attack at the National Police Headquarters in Jerusalem, October 9, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

During this time, police were mistakenly searching for a gray Toyota, as opposed to the white one the terrorist was actually driving.

As a result of the incorrect reports of the automobile’s color, officers opened fire at a vehicle matching the wrong description and lightly wounded the car’s driver, according to Channel 10.

While police were searching for the wrong vehicle, the terrorist in the white Toyota noticed two officers on motorcycle from the Israel Police’s Special Patrol Unit, opening fire on them and causing them to crash.

One of the officers, First Sergeant Yosef Kirma, was fatally shot in the exchange. The other officer was moderately wounded.

Police at a scene of a terror attack at the National Police Headquarters in Jerusalem, October 9, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Police at a scene of a terror attack at the National Police Headquarters in Jerusalem, October 9, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Additional officers arrived at the scene and opened fire at Abu Sabih’s vehicle, unloading 25 to 30 rounds at the car and killing him. Police found a grenade in Abu Sabih’s car, in addition to the firearm he used in the attack, according to Channel 10.

Five people in total were injured in the attack, which lasted approximately four minutes.

The police said they handed over to the IDF details of the soldier’s inaction during the attack and encouraged military commanders to discuss the issue with their troops, but the army claimed it was unaware of the incident, Channel 10 reported.

The teenage daughter of the Palestinian terrorist who killed two Israelis in northern Jerusalem before being killed by security forces on October 9, 2016 (YouTube screenshot)
The teenage daughter of the Palestinian terrorist who killed two Israelis in northern Jerusalem before being killed by security forces on October 9, 2016 (YouTube screenshot)

Dozens of Palestinians were arrested in the aftermath of the attack, including the gunman’s teenage daughter who praised her father’s actions in a video posted on Facebook.

In addition, the candy shop owned by Abu Sabih’s family in the Palestinian village of al-Ram was ordered closed by the IDF, and the family’s home was measured for eventual demolition.

Details of the investigation have been kept secret under a gag order requested by the Israel Police and Shin Bet security service. It was not immediately clear if the television report violated that order.

The Jerusalem District Court partially lifted the gag order on Thursday, but that only allowed the publication of Abu Sabih’s name and the names of his victims. The rest of the details surrounding the investigation were not affected. No explanation was offered for either the ban or for why it was partly lifted.

The terror attack revealed some apparent failings in the police and legal justice system, as Abu Sabih was supposed to be in prison at the time of the shooting.

Mesbah Abu Sabih on the Temple Mount in an undated photograph. (Social media)
Mesbah Abu Sabih on the Temple Mount in an undated photograph. (Social media)

In 2013, the East Jerusalem resident was indicted for assaulting a police officer in Jerusalem’s Old City. The case was dropped that year, but it was reopened in 2015. Abu Sabih was convicted and sentenced to four months in prison, beginning in October 2016.

In an interview with Ma’an news on Saturday, he said he planned to arrive at Ramle prison in central Israel at 10 a.m. on Sunday to begin his sentence. Instead, he began a shooting spree that left two dead.

He had apparently been threatened with open-ended administrative detention — imprisonment without trial — if he failed to appear at the prison, Ma’an reported.

In the two weeks prior to the attack, Abu Sabih was picked up and released by police five times and was banned from entering East Jerusalem for one month, he told Ma’an.

However, many Israelis — including Likud lawmaker Yehuda Glick — blamed the Israeli court system and law enforcement for not doing a better job tracking Abu Sabih, which they say would have prevented his deadly attack.

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