An obscure Palestinian group claimed responsibility Monday for a truck ramming in occupied Jerusalem that killed four Israeli soldiers, an attack that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier was likely inspired by Daesh (ISIS).
In a post on social media, the Groups of “Martyr Bahaa Eleyan,” which has not been heard of previously, claimed the attack and said it was formed by Palestinians who “have no links outside Palestine.” It said it had acted previously, giving no details, and threatened more attacks.
“This is not the first operation executed by our groups and it will be followed by a flood of distinctive operations in defense of our Jerusalem and in revenge of our martyrs and prisoners,” its statement said.
Israeli police Monday stepped up security measures in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, searching trucks and parked cars and arresting relatives of the Palestinian truck driver Fadi Qunbar who was shot dead in the attack.
An investigation is underway as to how Qunbar managed to make his way Sunday to the Jerusalem promenade where the soldiers gathered; who owned the truck he drove and whether he planned his attack ahead of time, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Police used concrete slabs to block some entrances of Jabal Mukaber, and a police officer checked cars leaving it. Israeli special forces dismantled a mourning tent erected to receive visitors paying respects for Qunbar, who was fatally shot at the scene of the attack. Overnight, police say, Palestinians shot fireworks at Israeli forces at a police post near the neighborhood.
Netanyahu said authorities would increase the number of concrete barricades along Jerusalem roads where pedestrians gather, to protect them from similar attacks by vehicles, and that Israeli security agencies are working on ways to detect attackers ahead of time.
“We are under a new kind of attack, the lone attacker that gets inspiration and decides in a moment to act,” Netanyahu said. Hours after the attack, which killed four soldiers and wounded 17, Netanyahu said the attacker showed all the signs of being a supporter of Daesh but did not give any details.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman had also pointed to the extremist group, citing parallels with Daesh-inspired attacks on crowds using trucks in Germany and France last year.
Mohammad Qunbar, the attacker’s cousin, said Fadi lived a normal life but carried out the attack as a result of Palestinian anger over what is seen as Israeli encroachment at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The attack came at a time of heightened tensions in Jerusalem, where Palestinians have warned of dire consequences if incoming President Donald Trump follows through on his promise to move the U.S. Embassy to the city. The atmosphere among Israelis is also charged following last week’s manslaughter conviction of an Israeli soldier who fatally shot a wounded Palestinian attacker.
Critics have accused the army of abandoning a soldier on the battlefield and said the decision would make soldiers think twice before pulling the trigger in combat situations.
Eytan Rund, a tour guide who said he shot Sunday’s attacker, said the many soldiers in the area were slow to respond, blaming their “hesitation” on last week’s verdict.
Security camera footage showed the truck barreling at a high speed into a crowd of soldiers gathered next to a bus. The truck then quickly backed up before the driver was shot dead.
Many of the soldiers can be seen fleeing the scene as the attack took place, their rifles slung on their shoulders.