(JTA) — A Palestinian man rammed his car into pedestrians in Israel’s busy Mahane Yehuda market as the country prepared for Memorial Day and Independence Day, wounding five people. One man, in his 60s or 70s, was said to be fighting for his life.
A civilian shot dead the driver of the car. Police said the man, a Palestinian resident of the Beit Safafa neighborhood, was known to have terrorist associations as well as a mental illness.
The apparent attack Monday came as shoppers filled the market ahead of Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day which begins Tuesday evening and is a holiday. The country was getting ready Monday evening for Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s memorial day that immediately precedes Independence Day.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was at the time delivering remarks at Yad LeBanim, the monument to the war dead in Jerusalem.
“A few minutes ago, not far from here, there was an attempt to murder Israeli citizens,” he said. “This terrorist attack, in this place, at this time, reminds us that the land of Israel and the State of Israel are acquired through many trials and tribulations.”
Israeli-Palestinian violence has intensified over the past year, in the wake of a series of stabbing attacks on Israelis and retaliatory Israeli army raids on Palestinian centers. Tensions accelerated after the installation of Netanyahu’s government, the most far right in Israel’s history, in December. Extremist ministers in the government have launched initiatives to further limit the rights of Palestinians; they have also won the promise to create an armed civilian guard to support police and the army in combating terrorism.
Car rammings have emerged in recent years as a form of terrorist attack on Israelis. It has not yet been determined whether a deadly ramming in Tel Aviv earlier this month was an attack or a medical incident.