12 injured in Tel Aviv stab attack by Palestinian

07:30 Jan 21 2015 near Ma'ariv bridge, Tel Aviv

Hamza Matrouk, 23, after being shot in the leg by Israeli security officer following Matrouk's alleged stabbing of 12 people on Tel Aviv bus, January 21, 2015. Photo by AFP

TEL AVIV (AFP) -- A Palestinian attacked passengers with a knife on a bus in Tel Aviv on Wednesday wounding at least 12 people before being shot by a passing prison officer, Israeli police said.

Twelve people were wounded in the attack, including three who were in serious condition, four in moderate condition and five who sustained light injuries, hospital sources said.

Another seven people were treated for shock.

"The terrorist stabbed the bus driver several times but the driver fought back until he fled on foot and was neutralized by a guard from the prisons' service," a police statement said.

He was shot in the leg then taken to hospital for further investigation.

It was the first attack in Tel Aviv since mid-November when a young Israeli soldier was stabbed to death by a Palestinian.

The Hamas movement's leadership praised the attack, calling it a "natural reaction" by people suffering under occupation.

Deputy head of Hamas Mousa Abu Marzouq said that "there is no bigger terrorism than occupying people, stealing their lands, freedom and dignity."

Ahmad Bahr, deputy head of the Palestinian Legislative Council, also praised the attack, which he described as self-defense.

Bahr said in a statement that the "negotiations path" followed by the Palestinian Authority was a waste of time and a chance for Israel to "Judaize" what is left of Jerusalem and expand its settlements.

He called on the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to abandon negotiations and return to resistance.

The Popular Resistance Committees also applauded the stabbing attack, which it described as a "natural reaction to all Israeli crimes against Palestinians, their lands and religious sites."

The PRC added in a statement that "resistance attacks will not stop."

The statement called for a complete intifada inside Israel and to support Palestinians in the Negev.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the attack as a direct result of incitement by the Palestinian Authority of president Mahmoud Abbas.

"The attack in Tel Aviv is a direct result of poisonous incitement from the Palestinian Authority towards Jews and their state. This is the same terror which tried to harm us in Paris, Brussels and everywhere," he said on his Facebook page.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman issued a statement blaming the attack on Abbas, Hamas, Israeli Bedouin and Arab Israeli politicians, saying it was part of a broader plot to kill Jews.

"They are all parts of the same branch whose aim is to destroy the Jewish state," he said.

"So we must work determinedly against all of these people, who... have the same aim: to kill Jews and to destroy Israel."

Palestinian security sources identified the attacker as 23-year-old Hamza Muhammad Hasan Matrouk from Tulkarem refugee camp in the northern West Bank.

Locals from the camp told Ma'an that Hamza was not affiliated to any political faction. They said that Israeli forces summoned his father and other family members for questioning at offices of the Israeli military liaison department.

"Last night Hamza and I hung out with friends in the camp until 11 p.m. and we had fun," a friend of Hamza's told Ma'an. He added that he didn't notice anything unusual with Hamza.

"He was laughing and kidding and I know very well that he isn't affiliated to any faction."

Ma'an staff contributed to this report

Tel Aviv attacker says he was motivated by Gaza War, Temple Mount, martyrdom

By Jack Khoury | Jan. 21, 2015 | 3:41 PM for Haaretz

The Palestinian arrested for stabbing 12, three of whom were critically wounded, on a Tel Aviv bus Wednesday morning told investigators he was motivated by Israel's summer war in Gaza, the recent fighting over the Temple Mount and Islamist broadcasts praising the martyr's "road to paradise," the Shin Bet has said.

Friends of Hamza Mohammed Hasan Matrouk said the 23-year-old was with them Tuesday night in Tul Karm refugee camp, where they live.

Matrouk showed no signs of distress or agitation on the night before the attack, they said. "He seemed completely normal," said one companion.

The friends said further that Matrouk was not known as an activist or supporter of any Palestinian political faction.

They said he divided his time between Tul Karm and Ramallah, where his mother, who is separated from his father, lives.

Matrouk, who did not have a permit to enter Israel, was shot in the leg after the stabbings by an Israel Prison Service officer on Hamasger Street, near the scene of the attack. He was taken to the hospital for treatment and questioning by police and the Shin Bet.

The stabbings were carried out on a No. 40 bus on Menachem Begin Road, a major thoroughfare in Tel Aviv, near the Ma'ariv Bridge.

Preliminary findings were that Matrouk got to Tel Aviv Wednesday morning and boarded the bus at the Old Central Bus Station. After the bus passed two stops and more passengers got on, he took out a knife and started stabbing passengers.

Matrouk's detention will be extended for four days. Because he purchased the knife in the West Bank, he will be brought before a military court in the settlement Ariel. He was not taken to court on Wednesday because the bullet wound to his leg requires his hospitalization.

Palestinian Man Stabs Israelis on Bus in Tel Aviv, Police Say


JERUSALEM — A Palestinian man stabbed and wounded up to a dozen Israelis on Wednesday as he rampaged through a bus in central Tel Aviv during the morning rush, the police said. He then fled on foot, but was shot and wounded by security forces.

At least three of the victims were reportedly hospitalized in serious condition. The assailant, a man in his early 20s from the West Bank city of Tulkarm, was arrested, the police said.

The episode broke a period of relative calm that followed a spate of attacks against Israelis in October and November in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the West Bank that were carried out by Palestinians armed with knives, cleavers and guns, or using vehicles as weapons.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel sought to link the violence to a wider political context, and to affix blame on the Palestinian leadership. He said in a statement that the stabbing attack was “the direct result of the poisonous incitement being disseminated by the Palestinian Authority against the Jews and their state.”
Israeli police carried the injured suspect on a stretcher at the scene of the stabbing attack. Credit Oren Ziv/Getty Images

“This same terrorism is trying to attack us in Paris, Brussels and everywhere,” he continued.

The assailant, identified by the police as Hamza Muhammad Hassan Matrouk, 23, boarded a bus in Tel Aviv about 7:30 a.m. and traveled two stops as more passengers boarded. He first attacked the driver, who resisted, said Yehuda Dahan, the district police chief. Mr. Matrouk then stabbed a number of passengers before they managed to open the doors of the bus and escape, Chief Dahan said.

The assailant then got off the bus and continued attacking people in the street. Video footage from a security camera showed him stabbing one woman in the upper back as she fled.

As the man ran off, armed personnel from Israel’s prison service who happened to be in the area chased him and shot him. A member of the prison service team told reporters that they were on a routine trip to the courts when they noticed the bus in front of them zigzagging and then stopping at a green traffic light. They realized that something was happening, he said, as passengers began fleeing the bus, screaming.

“First we fired in the air, but he didn’t stop,” the head of the prison security team, who was not identified, told the Israeli news media. “Then we shot him in the legs,” he said, adding that the man did not say anything.

Images from the scene showed the suspect lying face down in the mud, his hands handcuffed behind him, the lower left part of his jeans soaked with blood.

The police said Mr. Matrouk lived in a refugee camp in Tulkarm and had entered Israel illegally on Wednesday morning to carry out the attack.

A passenger who was slightly wounded in the attack, Liel Suissa, 14, said he was on his way to school “when suddenly the terrorist showed up and started stabbing people.”

“We all moved towards the back,” he told news outlets. “The driver pressed the brakes as the terrorist was heading close to us.”

“I elbowed the window, and it broke so we could get out,” he said. “When we got out, he chased us with the knife in his hand. I ran and hid behind cars and then security personnel ran after him.”
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Israel has been struggling to prevent attacks that security officials say are carried out by individuals rather than orchestrated by organizations.

The police said that during an interrogation, Mr. Matrouk said he was motivated by the recent fighting in Gaza, tensions over a contested holy site in Jerusalem and radical Islamic broadcasts that spoke of “reaching paradise.”

“He said he decided to achieve that by carrying out an attack,” a police spokesman said.

Maan, an independent Palestinian news site, quoted a friend of Mr. Matrouk’s as saying he did not belong to any political or armed faction and had been acting normally the night before the attack.

“Last night Hamza and I hung out with friends in the camp until 11 p.m. and we had fun,” the friend, who was unnamed, told Maan. “He was laughing and kidding.”

The attack came amid a charged political atmosphere in Israel, with elections scheduled for March 17 and with Israeli-Palestinian relations in a downward spiral since the breakdown of American-brokered peace talks last spring.

Israel condemned the formation of a new Palestinian Authority government supported by the more moderate West Bank leadership, dominated by President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, and by the militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza.

The subsequent abductions and killings of Israeli and Palestinian teenagers were followed by 50 days of fighting in Gaza that killed nearly 2,200 people in Gaza and more than 70 on the Israeli side.

Diplomatic tensions have escalated in recent weeks as the Palestinian leadership moved to join the International Criminal Court in an effort to pursue war crimes cases against Israel. Israel responded this month by withholding more than $100 million in tax revenue it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. As a result, the authority has been unable to pay full wages to its 150,000 employees.

Mr. Netanyahu on Wednesday said that Hamas, Mr. Abbas’s “partners in a unity government, hastened to commend this attack.” Referring to Mr. Abbas by his popular name, Mr. Netanyahu added, “Abu Mazen is responsible for both the incitement and the dangerous move at the I.C.C. in The Hague.”

In a statement after Wednesday’s attack, Naftali Bennett, a right-wing minister in the Israeli cabinet, said of Mr. Abbas, “The person responsible for the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv this morning is the same man we saw marching in the company of world leaders in Paris just last week” after terrorist attacks there.

Mr. Bennett called on Israel to stop the flow of funds to Mr. Abbas, whom he described as a “terrorist.”
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