Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a Palestinian truck driver who rammed a group of soldiers in Jerusalem, killing four and wounding 17 others, was likely a supporter of Islamic State (IS).
“We know the identity of the attacker, according to all the signs he is a supporter of Islamic State,” Netanyahu said.
“We have sealed off Jabel Mukabar, the neighbourhood from where he came, and we are carrying out other actions which I will not detail.”
The military said that a female officer and three officer cadets were killed and that 17 others were injured – three of the dead were women and all were in their twenties.
Police identified the truck driver as a Palestinian from Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem and said he was shot dead. His uncle, Abu Ali, named him as Fadi Ahmad Hamdan Qunbor, 28, a father of four from the Jabel Mukabar neighbourhood.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that nine Jabel Mukabar residents, including five members of the attacker’s family, were arrested on suspicion of aiding the attacker.
A government source said that ministers had called for the demolition of the attacker’s home and for his body not to be returned to the family for burial. It also decided to detain without trial persons expressing sympathy for Islamic State.
CCTV footage from the area showed the truck mounting a kerb as it drove through the throng of people and then reversed back into them.
The footage also showed many of the soldiers fleeing the scene as the attack took place, their rifles slung on their shoulders.
Some soldiers fired on the truck driver and killed him.
“In a split second I looked to my left and saw what I can only describe as a speeding truck which sent me flying,” a security guard, who was identified only as “A” told Israel’s Channel 10.
“It was a miracle that my pistol stayed on me. I shot at a tyre but realised there was no point as he has many wheels, so I ran in front of the cabin and at an angle I shot at him and emptied my magazine. When I finished shooting, some of the officer cadets also took aim and also started firing.”
It is the deadliest Palestinian attack in Jerusalem in months and targeted officer cadets who were disembarking from a bus that brought them to the Armon Hanatziv promenade, a stone-laden and grass-lined walkway with a panoramic view of the walled Old City.
Roni Alsheich, the national police chief, told reporters he could not rule out that the Palestinian was motivated by a truck ramming attack in a Berlin Christmas market that killed 12 people last month.
“It is certainly possible to be influenced by watching TV but it is difficult to get into the head of every individual to determine what prompted him, but there is no doubt that these things do have an effect,” Alsheich told reporters.
A wave of Palestinian street attacks, including vehicle rammings, has largely slowed but not stopped completely since it began in October 2015.
The Palestinian Hamas movement praised the attack but did not claim responsibility. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called on residents to be wary but carry on with their everyday life.