Eight people were still in hospital on Wednesday evening, hours after a Palestinian man stabbed commuters on a Tel Aviv bus and passersby in the street during rush hour, including three who were left in serious condition.
Four people were in moderate condition and one sustained minor injuries. Seventeen people were injured overall, a police spokesman said, labeling the incident a terror attack.
The attacker was identified as Hamza Matrouk, 23, a Palestinian from the West Bank city of Tulkarem. He was shot after a short chase, during which he continued to stab people on the street, and taken into police custody. Matrouk was in Israel illegally. In an initial interrogation, Matrouk claimed that the terror attack was motivated by the Israel-Hamas war last summer, and recent tensions surrounding the Temple Mount.
A video uploaded to the internet shortly after the attack appears to show part of Wednesday’s stabbing. A number of people can be seen fleeing down the street when, from the left side of the screen, the attacker can be discerned racing after a woman in a blue jacket, whom he stabs in the back before running off down the street.
WARNING: Graphic content.
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 approving of the attack emerged on Hamas-affiliated news websites. The Gaza-based 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 — before attacking others as passengers attempted to escape the scene. Biton 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 and shot the man in the leg, wounding him lightly, and subsequently arrested him.
The incident occurred at the Maariv Bridge, which spans a main artery in the city and was packed with rush hour traffic at the time.
Photographs from the scene that were posted to the Internet showed the attacker lying on the ground in handcuffs.
A 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 Tuesday, January 20, 2015
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 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 copycat 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 was the latest of a series 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.
AP contributed to this report.