Several U.S. citizens were injured in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem on the evening of October 22, 2014. Abdel Rahman Al-Shaludi, a Palestinian resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan and a known criminal with ties to Hamas, drove his car into the platform of the Ammunition Hill light rail station. He ran over Chaya Zissel “Haya Zissel-Brown”, a three month old American baby, as well as injuring seven others, some of whom are American citizens, at the station. Israeli police then engaged Al-Shaludi with small arms fire, ultimately wounding him. The unit then arrested Al-Shaludi, who later died of his wounds while receiving hospital care. When rescue personnel arrived, Zissel did not have a pulse; however, rescue personnel revived the baby, but the infant died later at the hospital. Following the immediate incident, Israeli police arrested and interrogated Al-Shaludi’s brother, sparking riots in East Jerusalem.
Israeli and American leaders have condemned the attack, while Hamas and Islamic Jihad have praised the action. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has used this opportunity to attack Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, claiming that “That’s how Abu Mazen’s [Abbas’] partners in government act.” He also deployed additional police to quell the rioting in East Jerusalem, leading to an uneasy calm as of now without further casualties. Israeli intelligence claims that this attack fits the profile of a “run-over terrorist attack.” This claim is supported by a history of Palestinian terrorist using this tactic against Israeli civilians, as well as video footage of the incident (contained in the Haaretz link in the bibliography). The American State Department condemned the incident, stating, “The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem. We express our deepest condolences to the family of the baby, reportedly an American citizen, who was killed in this despicable attack, and extend our prayers for a full recovery to those injured. We urge all sides to maintain calm and avoid escalating tensions in the wake of this incident.” Hamas has praised the action, stating that “The attack in Jerusalem is an act of heroism and a natural response to the crimes of the occupation against our people and our holy places.” Furthermore, Hamas claims that this attack may spark “Palestinian intifada in Jerusalem.” Islamic Jihad announced “There is Zionist aggression against all of our people, and today the resistance responded to this attack. This is a natural right.” Thus, the spiral of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appears to picking up in tempo for the moment.
Key questions that remain include whether the Americans were specifically targeted, the complicity of Hamas with the attack, and the nature of force the Israeli police used during the incident and during the following interrogation of the suspect’s brother.
Furthermore, the United States should anticipate and develop contingencies for this kind of attack against mass transit centers (e.g. airports, train stations, and ferry docks). Obstacle barriers, such as concrete berms or HESCO barriers may provide permanent or temporary measures to mitigate this kind of “run over terrorist attack.” The U.S. can develop contingencies to mitigate the risk of this style of attack.
This attack may inflame Israeli-Palestinian tensions, especially in Jerusalem. Furthermore, compounded with the Ottawa attack on the same day, the United States must insure it has the intelligence capabilities to anticipate cell and lone wolf attacks – often a difficult task – as well as the security capabilities to resiliently respond to the attacks. Furthermore, this attack may give the United States Government the ammunition to deny Palestinian statehood attempts as well as Palestinian requests for the ICC to investigate alleged Israeli Defense Forces’ war crimes in Gaza.
The Atlantic. “Riots Follow a Suspected Terror Attack in Jerusalem.” October 22, 2014. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/10/riots-follow-a-suspected-terror-attack-in-jerusalem/381798/.
The Guardian. “Baby killed and eight wounded in suspected terror attack in Jerusalem.” October 22, 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/22/jerusalem-attack-car-driven-light-railway-platform.
Haaretz. “Baby killed, 7 hurt in Jerusalem terror attack; terrorist dies of gunshot wounds.” October 22, 2014. http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.622192.
JP. “Terrorist kills infant, wounds several, after ramming car into crowd in Jerusalem.” October 22, 2014. http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Suspected-terror-attack-in-Jerusalem-three-injured-379527.
——. “Hamas, Islamic Jihad salute Jerusalem terror attack, threaten new ‘Palestinian intifada’ in capital.” October 23, 2014. http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Hamas-Islamic-Jihad-salute-Jerusalem-terror-attack-threaten-new-Palestinian-intifada-in-capital-379619.
Reuters. “UPDATE 4-Palestinian driver rams Jerusalem station killing baby.” October 22, 2014. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/22/mideast-violence-jerusalem-idUSL6N0SH51820141022.
State Department. “Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem.” October 22, 2014. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/10/233279.htm.