Palestinian in construction vehicle goes on rampage
Attacks police car in Jerusalem and is fatally shot
JERUSALEM - A Palestinian man commandeered a construction vehicle yesterday on a major road and swung a police car into the air, smashing it against a bus before bystanders opened fire on him and police shot him dead.
The incident, the third of its kind in the past year, came a day after the latest US visit to push Israel's hawkish future leaders into another try at Mideast peacemaking.
The two officers inside the police car escaped with slight injuries, police said. The bus, which was parked at an intersection, was empty.
Video footage from a traffic surveillance camera showed a front-end loader scoop up the car with its shovel, hurl it into the air, and slam it against the bus. Police and bystanders opened fire at the driver, and the vehicle crashed to a stop against an electricity pole.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld identified the driver as Mar'i al-Rdaidah, a 26-year-old from East Jerusalem. It wasn't clear whether the man was affiliated with a militant group, Rosenfeld said.
"It is without a doubt a terror attack," Jerusalem's deputy police chief, Nisso Shachar, told reporters.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev called the rampage a "senseless act of violence against innocent civilians."
Shachar said an open copy of the Koran, Islam's holy book, was found inside the front-end loader. The book's presence could indicate the attacker was influenced by Islamic radicals, though many Muslims routinely carry the Koran.
Rdaidah's mother told Channel 10 TV her son was a "respectable and devout person."
"He went to the mosque all the time and left home only to work," she said. Her name was not given.
The rampage came a day after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ended her first Mideast visit , and days before Israel celebrates Purim, a holiday in which schools are closed, children dress up in costumes, and families visit parties and public events.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said the attack would not stop next week's celebrations, and he urged the government to demolish Rdaidah's home. Israel suspended such demolitions years ago, after it drew international criticism.
It was the third time in months that a Palestinian man from East Jerusalem has turned a construction vehicle into a weapon on Jerusalem's streets.
In early July, three people were killed and dozens were wounded when an attacker plowed into cars and a bus. Three weeks later, another attacker rammed a bus, overturned a car, and wounded five people.
In September, a third driver plowed his car into a crowd of Israeli soldiers, wounding 19.
All of the attackers were shot dead by bystanders.
In the Gaza Strip, the ruling Hamas militant group praised the latest attack. "We bless this operation today in Jerusalem," said spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. "The Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves, and we emphasize we will defend our homeland."