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Hamas says Jerusalem car attacker was group member

November 5, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Palestinian faction Hamas on Wednesday said that a Palestinian motorist who ran over a group of Israeli pedestrians in East Jerusalem earlier in the day – killing one and injuring others – had been a member of the group.

The Palestinian faction added in a statement that the motorist who ran over Israeli pedestrians in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood was group member Ibrahim al-Akari.

Hamas did not say, however, whether it had ordered al-Akari – who was shot and killed by Israeli police in the immediate aftermath of the incident – to carry out the attack or whether he had carried it out on his own initiative.

“Al-Akari, whose blood was shed in Jerusalem, rose up for his people, his city, Jerusalem, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Hamas said in the statement.

It added that al-Akari was the brother of a Palestinian released by Israel as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap deal in 2011. The group said the slain driver’s brother had been expelled by Israeli authorities to Turkey.

Hamas’ armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, meanwhile, lauded the operation carried out by al-Akari.

“We salute all of Hamas’ mujahedeen and the heroes of Jerusalem who sacrifice their blood on its doorsteps,” Qassam spokesman Abu Ubaidah said on Twitter.

According to Israeli Channel 10, the Israeli killed in the driving attack had been an Israeli police officer.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz also reported that the slain driver was a Hamas member from Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the incident had left 14 Israelis injured. He had earlier said the incident could constitute a “terrorist” attack.

The car attack came shortly after violence erupted in Jerusalem when Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque and opened fire on Muslim worshippers before allowing Jewish settlers into the flashpoint site.

Tension had already been running high in occupied East Jerusalem since Jewish settlers kidnapped and killed a Palestinian boy from Shuafat in early July.

Earlier today, Israeli forces barred several prominent Palestinian and Arab-Israeli members from entering Al-Aqsa, including a Palestinian minister and two Knesset members.

Two weeks ago, an Israeli baby was killed and eight people were injured when a Palestinian driver ran over pedestrians in Jerusalem.

The situation in the city became even tenser when Israel closed the Al-Aqsa on Thursday following the shooting of extremist rabbi Yehuda Glick.

Israeli authorities reopened the mosque compound on Friday following a day of violent clashes with Palestinian protesters, but barred male Muslim worshippers under 50 years old from entering the site.

For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world’s third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the “Temple Mount,” claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state – a move never recognized by the international community.

In September 2000, a visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the “Second Intifada,” a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.

Images: Anadolu Agency