Stabbing of 13 on Israeli bus is latest in series of Palestinian attacks

A knife-wielding Palestinian went on a stabbing spree on a bus in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, wounding 13 people, four of them seriously, before he was shot and arrested, a police spokesman said.

The assault was the latest in a series of “lone-wolf” attacks by Palestinians, who’ve used knives and cars to attack Israelis on the streets in recent months.

The attacker was identified as Hamza Matrouk, 23, from a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Tulkarm. Police said he’d told investigators that he’d acted in response to Israel’s military campaign last summer in Gaza, tensions over a contested holy site in Jerusalem and Internet videos promising paradise to “martyrs.”

Witnesses said the man, who had been riding the bus, went up to the driver and stabbed him before turning on the passengers. After the passengers fled the vehicle, the assailant got off and stabbed a woman on the street before he was chased down and shot in the leg.

Liel Swissa, a 14-year-old boy who was taking the bus to school, told Israel Radio: “I heard people screaming. . . . I turned around and saw a person with a big knife stabbing the driver and other people.

“We all fled to the end of the bus. He approached us. I threw my schoolbag at him. . . . The driver slammed on the brakes, which caused him to fall. . . . I broke open a window with my elbow so we could get out, but then the driver opened the doors. When we got out, he ran after us with the knife.”

Officers of Israel’s prison service who’d been in a vehicle behind the bus said in radio interviews that they’d seen the bus rocking from side to side and passengers fleeing. They said they’d chased the man into an alley and shot at his legs before he was taken into custody.

The driver’s sister, who spoke to him on the phone after he was stabbed, told Israel Radio that he’d tried to resist the attacker with pepper spray and had asked her to “take care of the children for me” before he was taken from the scene in serious condition.

The attack was praised by an official of the militant Islamist group Hamas. Izzat Risheq, who lives in Qatar, said in a tweet that the stabbing was “a natural response to the occupation and its terrorist crimes against our people.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the violence on the Palestinian Authority, calling it “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, everywhere,” Netanyahu added, referring to recent deadly assaults by Islamist extremists in France and arrests in Belgium of Islamists suspected of planning to attack police.

In several lethal incidents in recent months, Palestinian attackers have rammed cars into pedestrians and stabbed other Israelis. In the most serious assault, triggered by tensions surrounding a contested holy site in Jerusalem, two men armed with a gun and meat cleavers attacked a synagogue in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in the city, killing four worshippers and a police officer.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect number of people stabbed.