JERUSALEM (AFP) – A Palestinian slammed his car into pedestrians in Jerusalem on Wednesday, killing a border policeman and wounding nine other people in the second such attack in a fortnight.
The rampage, which came hours after clashes between police and Palestinians at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, sparked even more violence in east Jerusalem.
Police described the car incident, which took place on the line between west Jerusalem and the city’s annexed Arab east, as a “hit and run terror attack”.
Hours later, in the occupied West Bank, the army reported another car assault, in which three soldiers were run down as they stood guard outside El-Arub Palestinian refugee camp, south of Bethlehem.
“One is in critical condition, two with moderate wounds,” army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said on his official Twitter account, adding that the driver fled the scene.
Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders asked the UN Security Council to demand Israel take steps to end clashes at the Al-Aqsa mosque, warning of a brewing religious confrontation.
In the Jerusalem incident, the driver, Ibrahim al-Akari, whom police identified as a Palestinian from Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem, hit two groups of pedestrians before getting out of the vehicle and attacking passers-by with an iron bar.
He was then shot dead by police.
Citing security concerns, police ordered his family to bury him shortly before midnight and limited the number of mourners to 35.
The Jerusalem attack mirrored an incident on the same road on October 22 when a Palestinian rammed his car into a group of pedestrians, killing a young woman and a baby.
Hours after Wednesday’s attack, police started installing concrete blocks at light rail stops, to prevent vehicles striking passengers, a police statement said.
Spokeswoman Luba Samri said the driver in the Jerusalem attack had first struck a group of border policemen near their headquarters, before hitting another group of pedestrians.
Emergency services spokesman Zaki Heller said two of the wounded were in very serious condition.
Shortly after the attack, clashes broke out in both Shuafat refugee camp and Issawiya, also in east Jerusalem, an AFP correspondent reported. Skirmishes spread across several east Jerusalem hotspots, with police saying riot control weapons were used against Palestinians who hurled stones and firecrackers.
Temperatures had soared following heavy clashes between police and stone-throwers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound ahead of a visit by a group of Jewish rightists.
US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the attack as a “terrorist act” that “only raises tensions” in the tinderbox region.
EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini urged both sides to show restraint and called Wednesday’s attack “painful evidence of the need to undertake serious efforts towards a sustainable peace agreement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
The attack was hailed by the Islamist Hamas movement, which described Akari as a “hero” whose actions were a “natural response” to Israel’s actions at the Al-Aqsa compound.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas of encouraging such attacks by sending condolences to the family of a Palestinian shot dead by police last week over the attempted assassination of hardline rabbi Yehuda Glick.
“The hit-and-run attack in Jerusalem is a direct consequence of Abu Mazen’s (Abbas’s) incitement and that of his partners in Hamas,” he said.
Palestinian representative to the United Nations Riyad Mansour said the Security Council must “adopt a position to call on the Israeli government to stop all these activities and policies of provocation and incitement”.
Mansour blamed the latest confrontation at the Al-Aqsa mosque on “extremists” who entered the mosque, some without taking their shoes off, which he said “is extremely provocative”.
“They are trying to push the region into religious confrontation,” Mansour told reporters after meeting with Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan, whose country chairs the Security Council this month.
In a bid to quell disturbances at the mosque, police entered “several metres (yards)” inside to remove blockages set up by the protesters, she said.
Amin Abu Ghazali of the Palestinian Red Crescent said 39 people were wounded, six of whom were in serious condition.
The compound was later reopened to visitors with 108 Israeli Jews entering alongside 200 foreign tourists, police said.