JERUSALEM (AFP) – Jerusalem police vowed a “zero tolerance” policy towards violence Thursday after a Palestinian rammed his car into a crowd, killing a baby and triggering clashes across the city’s annexed eastern sector.
It was the second such deadly incident involving a Palestinian driving a vehicle in three months, and prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to order an immediate increase in the police presence across the Holy City.
The driver, 21-year-old Abdelrahman Shaludi from the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, drove his car at high speed into a group of pedestrians, killing a three-month-old girl and injuring six other people.
He was shot by police as he tried to flee the scene and later died of his injuries, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The early evening incident triggered clashes between stonethrowing youths and police in several east Jerusalem neighbourhoods which lasted late into the night.
Police warned they would not tolerate any further unrest, referring to clashes which have gripped the eastern part of the city on an almost daily basis for the past four months.
“Jerusalem police emphasises that it will demonstrate zero tolerance towards any incident of violence and will put its hand on anyone who disturbs public order in the city and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement.
Overnight, clashes took place in the districts of Silwan, Issawiya, Shuafat refugee camp, Al-Tur and Ras al-Amud – all of them flashpoints in Arab east Jerusalem, which was occupied and annexed by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War in a move never recognised by the international community.
Stones were also thrown at the light rail in Shuafat, which has repeatedly been a target for local anger in recent months. Police said the train was damaged but nobody was injured.
Most of the extra police forces were deployed in areas of friction, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.
He said a number of people had been arrested for stonethrowing overnight but declined to give numbers.
“On an operational level, police presence was reinforced with extra border police, a motorcycle unit and other units who specialise in public order,” he said, indicating they were deployed in areas such as Wadi Joz, Issawiya and Silwan to prevent any fresh unrest. He said police had activated “a strategic plan” to end the wave of unrest, which would incorporate human resources, technological resources and intelligence.
Washington denounced the attack as “despicable” and called for both sides to demonstrate restraint.
“We urge all sides to maintain calm and avoid escalating tensions in the wake of this incident,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement, without confirming reports that the infant had US citizenship.
Shaludi drove his car at top speed into pedestrians near the Ammunition Hill tram stop on the seamline between west and occupied east Jerusalem.
Three-month-old Haya Zissel Braun died of her injuries and was buried on Wednesday evening.