Shortly before 8am this morning a Palestinian man from the West Bank town of Tulkarem stabbed 13 passengers on a Tel Aviv bus seriously injuring four, according to Israeli police spokesperson Inspector Micky Rosenfeld. According to YNet News, the attacker Hamza Matrouk, 23, told police interrogators he was motivated by Israel’s 50-day summer war in Gaza and tensions at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound where right-wing Israeli politicians have have taken groups of religious-nationalists throughout the fall.
While the morning rush hour attack was in progress, three Israeli prison guards intervened. They saw the incident from their vehicle, which was directly behind the bus. According to a CCTV footage published by Israel’s Channel 10, one of the guards shot the assailant in the leg as he fled on foot while stabbing bus passengers who had rushed to the street.
After his arrest, Matrouk was taken to Wolfson Medical Center in Jerusalem, reported YNet News, where he is in police custody. Matrouk will be detained for the next 90 hours before being transferred to the West Bank’s military court system. Rosenfeld said “he came in from Tulkarem this morning with intentions to carry out a terrorist attack.” Haaretz reported Matrouk boarded the bus at Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station. The knife he used was brought with him from the West Bank and Matrouk managed to sneak it past security officers posted out front of the bus station.
According to Reuters, bus driver Herzl Biton, 55, told his dispatcher who was called during the attack, “Save me. I have been seriously injured, stabbed all over my body. He has stabbed my passengers … If anything happens to me, look after my children.” The driver was then transported to Tel Aviv Ichilov hosptial with five others who were seriously injured and 13 who were treated for shock. Biton underwent surgery this morning on his liver, which was wounded by the attacker. One other was also operated on for serious injuries. They both are still in critical condition, according to a spokesperson for the Ichilov hospital.
(Video via Israeli police spokesperson Luba Samri)
No Palestinian political faction has claimed the attack. It is unknown if it was an ordered operation, or a “lone wolf” assault, similar to another stabbing of two police officers carried out by a Palestinian at a train station in Tel Aviv two months ago.
However, Israeli officials have been quick to place blame on the Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even mentioned the Palestinians joining the International Criminal Court (ICC) as “incitement” in his condemnation released by his office this morning: “The terrorist attack in Tel Aviv is the direct result of the poisonous incitement being disseminated by the Palestinian Authority against the Jews and their state. This same terrorism is trying to attack us in Paris, Brussels and everywhere.”
“It is Hamas – Abu Mazen’s partners in a unity government – that hastened to commend this attack. This is the same Hamas that announced it will sue Israel at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Abu Mazen is responsible for both the incitement and the dangerous move at the ICC in theHague,” he added.
Economic Minister Naftali Bennett also said, “Abbas incites day and night against the Jews on television, when he glofiries and gives cash prizes to murderers of Jews,” reported Haaretz’s Barak Ravid, “he makes himself the dealer of knives, and the terrorists are just his agents.”
Extending blame to Palestinian citizens of Israel and other member of the Israeli government, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, “those behind the Tel Aviv attack stand behind Rahat riots and Jerusalem attacks: Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], [Ismail] Haniyeh, Raed Saleh, Haneen Zoabi, Ahmed Tibi and their partners. It’s all part of the same process of undermining Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state,” continuing, “It doesn’t matter to them if it’s Judea and Samaria, the Negev, the Galilee, Tel Aviv or Jerusalem – it is all part of the same branch which aims to eliminate the Jewish state.”