ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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Italian PM Meloni condemns 'cowardly attack'

Italian tourist dead, 7 others hurt in car-ramming on Tel Aviv promenade

Police say alleged terrorist, a 45-year-old Arab Israeli from Kafr Qassem, rammed car into group walking near seashore, appeared to reach for weapon after vehicle flipped

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Israeli police and emergency service work around a car involved in a ramming attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 7, 2023. (AP/Oren Ziv). Inset: Italian tourist Alessandro Parini, 35, from Rome, was killed in the attack. (Photo via Italian media)
Israeli police and emergency service work around a car involved in a ramming attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 7, 2023. (AP/Oren Ziv). Inset: Italian tourist Alessandro Parini, 35, from Rome, was killed in the attack. (Photo via Italian media)

An Italian tourist was killed and seven others were hurt in a suspected terror attack on a promenade in Tel Aviv on Friday night, police and medics said.

According to law enforcement officials, the alleged terrorist carried out a car-ramming attack and appeared to try to access a weapon to open fire on Kaufmann Street, leaving a trail of carnage along several hundred meters and into the adjacent Charles Clore Park, a popular seaside promenade.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service said one of the victims, a man in his 30s, had died, and seven others were hurt, with three in moderate condition. On Saturday morning Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital said only three patients remained hospitalized, all in good condition.

The fatality was later identified as Italian national Alessandro Parini, a 35-year-old lawyer from Rome. The wounded victims were also tourists from Italy and the United Kingdom, according to hospital officials. They were not named.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her solidarity with Israel following the “cowardly attack” in Tel Aviv in which seven other people were injured, including other tourists.

“Deep sorrow and condolences for the death of one of our nationals, Alessandro Parini, in the terrorist attack that took place in the evening in Tel Aviv. Condolences to the victim’s family, to the wounded, and solidarity with the State of Israel for the cowardly attack that hit him,” she wrote on Twitter. Meloni said her government was in contact with Israeli authorities about the wounded victims, some of whom are also Italian nationals.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Antonio Tajani, also the minister of foreign affairs, likewise condemned the suspected attack in Tel Aviv and said the ministry was working with Israeli authorities on the matter.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen sent his condolences to the family and the people of Italy.

“On behalf of the government and the people of Israel, I send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Alessandro Farini, the Italian citizen who was murdered in yesterday’s terror attack in Tel Aviv, and to the government and the people of Italy,” he wrote.

The US State Department also issued a condemnation, with Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel saying that the US “stands with the government and people of Israel.”

The car-ramming was the second deadly incident of the day, after a shooting in the West Bank Friday morning killed two sisters and left their mother fighting for her life. The uptick in violence has come as tensions have spiked in recent days following Israeli police incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to quell rioting; on Thursday, Hamas terrorists fired volleys of rockets at Israel from Gaza and Lebanon, authorities said.

The suspected terrorist in the Tel Aviv attack was named as Yousef Abu Jaber, 45, a resident of Kafr Qassem. He had no known prior security offenses.

Yousef Abu Jaber, 45, the driver in a deadly car-ramming in Tel Aviv on April 7, 2023. (Courtesy)

Shin Bet agents and police officers were at Abu Jaber’s home in the central Arab-majority city on Friday night to question his family members.

A spokesperson for the Shin Bet told The Times of Israel on Saturday afternoon that the car-ramming was being investigated as a terror attack.

The People’s Committee in Kafr Qassem, a local leadership group, said in a statement that members “strongly condemn the serious attack that took place tonight, send our condolences to the family of the person murdered, and wish a speedy recovery to those injured.”

“We condemn any harm to innocent lives and call for tolerance from all sides. This is not the way of the residents of Kafr Qassem. The city was and remains a place for living together and pursuing peace,” the group said.

Arab lawmaker Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamist Ra’am party, said in a tweet that in these “difficult moments, it is important for me to emphasize…this is not the way of Arab society and Arab citizens in Israel.”

“The Arab leadership, led by Ra’am and the Islamic movement, will not in any way accept the use of violence against any citizen regardless of religion or race or nationality,” said Abbas, who in 2021 made Ra’am the first independent Arab party to join an Israeli coalition.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed police to mobilize all reserve Border Police companies and the military to call up additional reservists, his office said in a short statement.

Surveillance camera footage showed Abu Jaber’s vehicle speeding toward pedestrians walking near the park, before overturning.

Another clip from the scene showed the overturned car at the park, with officers opening fire at a man who got out of the vehicle.

Tel Aviv police chief Amichai Eshed said the suspect drove onto a bicycle lane in a “clear” manner and hit a number of people in the pedestrian area.

Police said an officer at a nearby gas station heard the car overturning and rushed to the scene, alongside municipal inspectors. They saw the driver trying “to reach a rifle-like object that was with him” and fatally shot the attacker. Police initially believed Abu Jaber had a firearm, and was trying to reach for it in order to open fire. Law enforcement sources later told Hebrew-language media that the object was a toy gun.

“The policeman approached the car together with Tel Aviv municipality inspectors, and saw that the driver was trying to reach for a weapon he had in his possession,” police said.

Police were looking into the attacker’s motives and background, and were searching the area for evidence, Eshed said in a statement to the media. He said there were no fears of other attackers.

Witnesses described scenes of chaos and fear in Tel Aviv on Friday evening.

One eyewitness told Channel 12 that she was crossing the road toward the promenade after the traffic light turned green when she saw a motorcycle “speeding madly” down the road.

“It was really unusual, at an abnormal speed,” she said, adding that she then saw “a white car speeding on the promenade throwing people into the air.”

“I realized it was a hit-and-run attack. I ran quickly into a parking lot. The car passed me and kept running over [people]. I saw people on the floor and people trying to help them,” she recounted.

Another witness told the channel that she was standing on the balcony of a hotel across from the promenade when she suddenly “heard a boom, like a bomb, then I heard shots and saw people falling.”

“I heard about three or four shots and people fell,” said the witness.

Magen David Adom medic Yosef Kurdi, who was the first to arrive at the scene of the attack, said he saw an overturned car “with a 17-year-old girl lying next to it, fully conscious, with injuries on her head, stomach, and limbs as a result of being hit by a car.” The teenager was treated by medics and then taken to Ichilov Hospital in the city.

“About 200 meters north, an unconscious man was lying with injuries to his body. He was without a pulse and not breathing, and after medical tests we had to pronounce his death in the field,” Kurdi said, in reference to Parini.

The injured victims included a 74-year-old man and a 39-year-old man, in addition to the 17-year-old, all of whom were listed in moderate condition. A 50-year-old man and a 70-year-old woman were lightly injured.

Tensions have soared across the region after tit-for-tat rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and Israeli strikes, a major rocket barrage from Lebanon, clashes at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, as well as a suspected Iranian drone launched from Syria earlier in the week.

There have also been several attacks in the West Bank, with three soldiers hurt in a car-ramming attack on Saturday, and two more soldiers hurt in separate shooting attacks on Wednesday and Thursday.

Israeli police and emergency service stand around a car involved in an attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Also during the past week, two soldiers were injured, one seriously, in a terror stabbing near the Tzrifin military base in central Israel.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which this year once again coincides with the Jewish festival of Passover, is known to be a period of high tensions between Israeli forces and Palestinians. Tens of thousands of worshipers visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque — Islam’s third holiest site, located in the compound that is the most sacred to Jews — throughout the month, regularly leading to a spike in tensions and violence with Israel.

The IDF imposed a closure on the West Bank from 5 p.m. Wednesday until Saturday evening, with crossing points closed to Palestinians on the first day of the Passover holiday. Gaza border crossings were also closed. The same was set to happen next week on the last day of Passover beginning on April 11 and lasting until April 12.

Chief of police’s Tel Aviv district, Amichai Eshed, at the scene of a car-ramming attack in Tel Aviv, April 7, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Some crossings opened Friday to let worshipers attend mass prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Such closures are standard practice during festivals and holidays. The military says they are a preventative measure against attacks in periods of increased tensions.

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the IDF conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.

Palestinian terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank in recent months have left 18 people dead and several more seriously hurt.

At least 89 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, most of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, though some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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