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Five Israelis Injured in Car-Ramming Attack as Jerusalem Celebrates Purim

The city has been relatively calm after a string of similar assaults last year, but there are fears the violence could flare again over a tax revenue freeze that has strangled Palestinian finances.

by Harriet Salem
Mar 6 2015, 12:15pm

Image via Reuters

Five people, including four security officials, were wounded this morning in Jerusalem when a Palestinian man plowed his car into a group standing near a tram stop before getting out of the vehicle wielding a knife.

The assailant, who according to local media reports comes from east Jerusalem, was shot at the scene by a security officer and then transported to hospital under police custody. Security officials have said that the assault is being treated as an act of terrorism. "The incident was apparently a deliberate attack," police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

The attack took place on a main road close to a border police base and the light rail station serving the Old City's Damascus Gate.

The area, which lies on the divide between the predominantly Arab east side of the city and the predominantly Jewish west, became a flashpoint for violence at the end of last year when a spate of car and stabbing attacks carried out by "lone wolves" claimed the lives of at least 11 people, including a 3 month-old baby.

Related: Synagogue Attacks Mark New Level of Escalation as Jerusalem Inches Closer to Breaking Point

In November, a similarly executed attack at almost exactly the same spot took the life of Jidan Assad, a Border Police officer, and injured a further 13 people.

This morning's incident came as Jerusalem's streets were crowded with people out to celebrate the Jewish festival of Purim, which is traditionally celebrated one day later than in the rest of Israel due to the holy city's status as a walled city.

Jerusalem's mayor Nir Barkat pledged that all the Purim events would go ahead as planned and that terror would not be allowed to disrupt daily lives. "I invite all the residents of the country to celebrate Purim in Jerusalem and strengthen us," he added.

Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri praised the attack on his Facebook page as a "heroic operation" and "a natural response to Israel's crimes."

Israel Police Foreign Press Spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said that "heightened security" had since been put in place.

Although the city has been relatively calm in recent months, there have been growing concerns that violence may flare again over an ongoing dispute between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israeli government.

In January, Israel stopped the transfer of tax revenues collected on behalf of Palestinians. The freeze, which now amounts to nearly $450 million, has left the PA without funds to pay workers' salaries and electricity to areas of West Bank has been briefly cut off on two occasions over unpaid bills in the last month.

On Thursday, following a two-day long meeting, the Palestinian Liberation Organization's central committee issued a recommendation "to suspend all forms of security coordination [with Israel]." The threat is regularly made by the Palestinian authorities as a form of leverage in negotiations with Israel and has yet to receive clearance from PA President Mahmoud Abbas. However, if it the recommendation were to be cleared it would likely trigger serious unrest in West Bank with potential spillover into Jerusalem.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled across Israel for March 17.

Follow Harriet Salem on Twitter: @HarrietSalem