JERUSALEM: A Palestinian stabbed and wounded seven people on a Tel Aviv commuter bus during the morning rush hour on Wednesday before he was shot in the leg by a security officer as he fled, police and emergency services said.
It was the first Palestinian attack reported in Israel’s commercial capital since a soldier was stabbed to death two months ago.
Passengers on the bus said the assailant, later identified by police as a Palestinian from the occupied West Bank, stabbed the driver and then others as the vehicle slowed to a stop.
“The terrorist had murder in his eyes,” one passenger, identified only as Orly said on Israel Radio.
As screaming passengers spilled out of the bus, prison officers in another vehicle at one of Tel Aviv’s busiest intersections saw the suspected attacker trying to flee and gave chase.
One of the officers shot him in the leg. Television footage showed the alleged assailant, whom police said was aged 23, lying face down in mud, his arms handcuffed behind his back.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service said seven people were wounded in the stabbing, four of them seriously, and two other passengers suffered injuries while running off the bus.
During the attack, the bus driver managed to alert his dispatcher and plead over the phone for help.
“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 said, according to the dispatcher’s account on Army Radio.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the Hamas Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip called it “the natural reaction to Israeli terrorism against the Palestinian people”.
In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attack “a direct result of venomous incitement disseminated in the Palestinian Authority against Jews and their country.”
The stabbing came amid heightened tensions in recent months between Palestinians and Israelis, particularly in the West Bank, where the Authority exercises limited self-rule, and East Jerusalem.
In November, two Palestinians killed four worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue. Five Israelis and a foreign visitor died in Palestinian attacks before that incident. At least 12 Palestinians have also been killed, including some of the attackers.