The American tourist killed in Tuesday’s terror attack in Tel Aviv was identified as 29-year-old Taylor Force, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, the school said in a statement.
Force, a Lubbock, Texas native, was killed and at least 10 people were injured Tuesday evening when a Palestinian man carried out a stabbing spree in Jaffa. Five of the injured were described as being in critical condition.
The attack was the third of the day; two policemen were badly hurt in a Jerusalem shooting earlier, and a 40-year-old father-of-five was stabbed repeatedly and moderately injured in an attack in Petah Tikva before managing to stab his assailant with his own knife.
Force was a US army veteran, according to his LinkedIn profile and an article published on a business school review website. He graduated from West Point Military Academy in 2009 and served as a field artillery officer from 2009-2014 at Fort Hood. A veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, he was in Israel on a school program.
Force’s wife was severely injured in the attack, according to Zaki Heller, spokesperson for the Magen David Adom ambulance service.
“It is with extreme sadness that I write to inform you that Taylor Force, a student at our Owen Graduate School of Management, was fatally wounded March 8 in a stabbing attack while on an Owen school trip to Tel Aviv, Israel,” the Nashville, Tennessee university said in a statement. “All other Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff on the trip are safe.”
“This horrific act of violence has robbed our Vanderbilt family of a young hopeful life and all of the bright promise that he held for bettering our greater world,” school Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos wrote. “Taylor’s family and his friends and colleagues have our deepest sympathy and utmost support.”
The State Department later issued a statement in which it said it “condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s outrageous terrorist attacks in Jaffa, Petah Tikvah, and Jerusalem, which tragically claimed the life of U.S. citizen Taylor Allen Force and left many others severely injured.”
“We offer our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Taylor and all those affected by these senseless attacks, and we wish a speedy recovery for the injured,” Spokesman John Kirby said in the statement. “As we have said many times, there is absolutely no justification for terrorism. We continue to encourage all parties to take affirmative steps to reduce tensions and restore calm.”
The terrorist, later identified as 22-year-old Palestinian Bashar Massalha, stabbed his victims in at least three locations in an attack that lasted some 20 minutes, reports said.
The attacker was shot dead by police after a chase from the Jaffa Port along the Tel Aviv beach promenade. Police said he was a 21-year-old man from the West Bank Palestinian refugee camp in Qalqiliya.
Graphic footage from the scene of the attack appeared to show a policeman shooting one round at the stabber as he lay on the ground, with civilians cheering and urging him and other officers to aim for his head.
The Wolfson Medical Center in Tel Aviv confirmed one victim, Force, arrived at the hospital dead, and said one other was being treated in the trauma unit in critical condition.
Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital said it received six victims, one in critical condition, two in moderate condition and two suffering from lighter wounds. The hospital’s medical director confirmed that one of the victims was a pregnant woman. Another of the victims was an Arab Israeli — Jaffa is a mixed city with a sizable Arab population — and one a Palestinian man who was residing in Israel illegally, police reported.
Police said the attacker first stabbed three people along the Jaffa boardwalk, a popular site for shopping and leisure, before fleeing slightly inland toward the city’s Kikar Hasha’on, where he stabbed three more people. He then went on to stab at least four people near the Dolphinarium on the border with Tel Aviv.
Video footage showed the attacker running along the beach promenade attempting to stab drivers waiting in traffic. One man slowed down the attacker by hitting him with a guitar he was holding, he told Channel 2, holding aloft the broken instrument.
Jaffa had not previously seen any stabbing attacks in the recent wave of terror. Police announced they would step up their presence in the city and in Tel Aviv following the incident.
The attack took place as US Vice President Joe Biden, who landed in Israel Tuesday afternoon for a two-day visit, was at the Peres Peace Center, a 15-minute walk from the scene of the attack in Jaffa.
It was the third serious attack of the day, coming on the heels of a stabbing in Petah Tikva and a shooting in Jerusalem.
One Israeli man, Yonatan Azarihab, was injured on Petah Tikva’s central Baron Hirsch Street when a Palestinian assailant followed him into a shop and stabbed him several times in the upper body. The victim managed to remove the knife from his neck and used it to stab and kill his attacker, aided by the store owner, police said.
Minutes later, two Israeli Border Police officers were seriously injured, with one of them described as “critical,” in a drive-by shooting attack on Salah a-Din Street, near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate. The gunman, riding a motorcycle, opened fire at the officers, striking one in the head. As he attempted to escape the scene, security forces engaged him in a firefight, during which he shot the second officer, police said. The shooter was killed.
The Hamas terror group released a statement praising the attacks as “heroic operations” and saying they prove that the wave of violence that began in October has not ended.
“Hamas celebrates the martyrs that have ascended through these operations, and confirms that their pure blood will, God willing, be the fuel for escalating the intifada,” the group wrote on its website.
Before Tuesday, twenty-nine Israelis and three foreign nationals had been killed in a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence since October. Nearly 170 Palestinians have also been killed, some two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.
Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.