RAMALLAH – A car ramming attack Monday near a popular Jerusalem market wounded five people and the Palestinian driver was shot and killed, Israeli police said, as the country memorialized its fallen soldiers.
The statement said the driver of the car was shot and killed at the scene near the bustling, open-air Mahane Yehuda market. A 70-year-old man was in serious condition, police said. It was the latest bloodshed in a yearlong wave of near-daily violence that has gripped the region.
The Magen David Adom medical service said five injured people in Jerusalem were transferred from the scene of the car ramming to a hospital. Israeli media identified the attacker as Hatem Nejima, 39, a married father of five from a Palestinian section of east Jerusalem, who may have suffered from mental illness.
Police said the attacker “deliberately hit several pedestrians, some of whom were crossing the road,” and attempted to drive backwards before a bystander shot and killed him. The police statement said the attacker's medical background was being investigated.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking elsewhere in Jerusalem, said the attack was an effort to “murder” Israelis.
The violence came as Israel marked its Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of militant attacks, beginning at sundown Monday, followed by its 75th Independence Day the following evening.
Israel was set to close off the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to all Palestinians wishing to leave except for humanitarian cases, a closure expected to continue until late Wednesday. Israel regularly tightens its restrictions on movement out of the West Bank and Gaza during holidays in what it says is a security precaution.
Hours earlier, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, Israeli forces operating in a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank killed a Palestinian man. The ministry identified the man as Suleiman Ayesh Awaid, 20, and said he was fatally shot in the Aqabat Jaber refugee camp. The camp has repeatedly been the scene of fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinians in recent months.
The Israeli military said it was operating in the area when two suspects were spotted fleeing. Soldiers opened fire and struck at least one of the suspects.
Violence between Israel and the Palestinians has spiked over the last year, after a bout of Palestinian attacks prompted Israel to launch near-nightly arrest raids into West Bank cities, villages and towns.
Israel says its raids are essential to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks, but violence has shown no sign of abating. The Palestinians say the raids entrench Israel’s 56-year, open-ended occupation of lands they seek for a future independent state.
Bloodshed has only intensified since the start of this year. So far this year, 95 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank, according to a tally by The Associated Press, at least half of them affiliated with militant groups. During that time, 19 people were killed in Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
Tensions have been particularly high over the last month, as Muslims marked the holy month of Ramadan, which this year coincided with the Jewish holiday of Passover. Earlier this month, an Israeli police raid on Muslim worshippers at a sensitive Jerusalem holy site touched off rocket salvos from militants in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and Syria, which Israel responded to with air strikes.
Also earlier this month, Palestinian gunmen killed three British-Israeli women — a mother and two of her daughters — as they were driving in their car in the West Bank. In a separate incident, an Italian tourist was killed and five others were wounded when a Palestinian-Israeli's car careened onto a bike path near the beach in Tel Aviv in what authorities described as a suspected attack.