JERUSALEM - A Palestinian man plowed an enormous construction vehicle into cars, buses and pedestrians on a busy street Wednesday, killing at least three people and injuring at least 45 before he was shot dead by an off-duty soldier.
Traffic was halted and hundreds of people fled in panic through the streets in the heart of downtown Jerusalem as medics treated the injured.
Three Palestinian militant groups took responsibility for the attack, but Israeli police referred to the attacker as a "terrorist" acting on his own.
The attack took place in front of a building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets. A TV camera captured the huge front loader crushing a vehicle and an off-duty soldier killing the perpetrator by shooting him in the head several times at point-blank range as onlookers screamed.
A half-dozen cars were flattened and others were overturned by the Caterpillar vehicle. A bus was overturned and another bus was heavily damaged. Israel's national rescue service confirmed three deaths, and the bodies lay motionless on the ground covered in plastic.
A woman sprinkled water over a baby's bloodied face, a rescue worker stroked the hair of a dazed elderly pedestrian and a loved one raised the bleeding leg of a woman sitting outside the overturned bus.
"I saw the bulldozer smash the car with its shovel. He smashed the guy sitting in the driver's seat," said Yaakov Ashkenazi, an 18-year-old seminary student.
The attack occurred in an area where Jerusalem is building a new train system. The project has turned many parts of the city into a construction zone.
Wednesday's attack represented a departure from militants' previous methods, which were mostly suicide bombings and shootings.
The three organizations that took responsibility for the attack included the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, which is affiliated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The other two are the Galilee Freedom Battalion, which is suspected of being affiliated with Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a fringe left-wing militant group.
The Hamas militant group, which runs the Gaza Strip and is currently maintaining a fragile cease-fire with Israel, said it did not carry out the attack but nevertheless praised it.
"We consider it as a natural reaction to the daily aggression and crimes committed against our people in the West Bank and all over the occupied lands," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Hamas: "A Natural Reaction To The Daily Aggression Against Our People"