1. On January 8, 2017, a Palestinian terrorist from Jabel Mukaber used a heavy truck for a vehicular attack against a group of Israeli soldiers. It was carried out on the promenade in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv. He was shot and killed. Four Israeli soldiers were killed.
2. Vehicular attacks are a familiar phenomenon of Palestinian popular terrorism, although not to the extent of stabbing and shooting attacks. The PA and Fatah do not condemn popular terrorism attacks, which they regard as legitimate anti-Israeli actions. So far neither the PA nor Fatah has issued a condemnation of the attack (while other organizations, including Hamas and Salafi jihadist organizations, rushed to claim responsibility for it).
3. Using a truck to increase the number of casualties of the attack may have been inspired by the vehicular attacks carried out by terrorists affiliated with ISIS in Nice and Berlin. However, at this stage the ITIC has no proof that the Jabel Mukaber terrorist identified himself ideologically with ISIS or was handled by it.
4. This type of attack inspires copycats. The "success," in Palestinian eyes, of the attack is liable to motivate other Palestinians to carry out similar attacks, using either trucks or heavy equipment to claim a large number of victims.
The Vehicular Attack and the Terrorist Who Carried It Out
5. On the afternoon of January 8, 2017, a Palestinian drove a truck from Jabel Mukaber towards the Armon Hanatziv promenade in Jerusalem. Seeing a group of Israeli soldiers getting off a bus, he veered out of his lane, accelerated and ran over them. He then put the truck in reverse and hit more soldiers. Several IDF soldiers shot and killed him. Three female soldiers and one male were killed, and 13 were wounded. Three are in critical condition and one is in serious condition.
6. The Palestinian terrorist who carried out the attack was Fadi Ahmed Hamdan al-Qunbar, 28, married with four children, from Jabel Mukaber in east Jerusalem. His family said he had driven the truck for the past year and a half. According to family members and neighbors, he had no political affiliation and did not tend towards religious extremism. Shortly before the attack he said the noon prayer at home. After that he got a phone call about making a delivery. Before he left the house he told his children he would be back in a couple of hours. According to the Israeli media, he had a criminal record. His family denied the report (Quds.net, January 9, 2017).
7. Immediately after the attack the neighborhood was closed off. Concrete blocks were placed at the entrance. Israeli security forces raided the terrorist's house and detained nine suspects for questioning, five of whom were family members. Israel's political-security cabinet met and decided on measures to take against the terrorist's family. The police took down the mourning tent erected in Jabel Mukaber by the family.
8. Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and a network (apparently fictitious) calling itself "the groups of shaheed Bahaa Alian" claimed Fadi al-Qunbar as an operative. Salafi jihadist sources embraced Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's assertion that he had been inspired by ISIS. So far the ITIC has not received verification that Fadi al-Qunbar had been handled by any Palestinian or jihadist terrorist organization. It is reasonable to assume that the claims of responsibility were issued to make media capital of the attack's "success" (familiar from past attacks).
9. A number of organizations claimed Fadi al-Qunbar belonged to their ranks.
a. At a rally organized to celebrate the attack,Fathi Hamad, a member of Hamas' political bureau, claimed that "the [Israeli] soldiers fled from the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades operative who carried out the attack for the sake of the Palestinians, the Arab nation and the Muslims" (al-Aqsa, January 8, 2017).
b. The PFLP claimed Fadi al-Qunbar was an operative of the organization (Twitter account of A'ajel from Gaza, January 8, 2017).
c. A network (apparently fictitious) calling itself "the groups of shaheed Bahaa Alian" also claimed responsibility. Bahaa Alian was one of the two terrorists from Jabel Mukaber who carried out the combined shooting and stabbing attack on a number 78 bus in Jerusalem (October 13, 2015).
Statements from Salafi-Jihadist Sources
10. Salafi jihadist networks embraced Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's assertion that Fadi al-Qunbar had been inspired by ISIS. The Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center in the Gaza Strip tweeted its congratulations for "the act of self sacrifice" carried out by "the lion of the Caliphate, Fadi al-Qunbar, as his membership in the Islamic State proved." The ISIS-affiliated Haq websitereported that the Israeli prime minister had said the Palestinian who carried out the attack was an ISIS supporter. The website reported the terrorist had spent his last hours praying and playing with his children (Haq, January 8, 2017).
11. On January 8, 2017 the ISIS-affiliated Da'wat al-Haq websiteposted an article entitled "The Palestinian who carried out the showcase attack in Jerusalem, Fadi al-Qunbar, was a supporter of the Islamic State." The article claimed he was an ISIS operative, and included a screenshot from one of the social networks stating that the attacker from Jabel Mukaber "belonged to the Islamic State." In addition, the article quoted Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu as saying the attacker belonged to ISIS (Haq, January 8, 2017). As of this writing, ISIS has not officially claimed responsibility for the attack.
Screen capture from one of the social networks claiming that "The shaheed from Jabel Mukaber, Fadi Qunbar, belongs to the Islamic State" (Haq, January 8, 2017).
An Examination of Abu Izz al-Din Qunbar's Facebook Page
12. A Facebook page the ITIC located was opened in the nickname of Abu Izz al-Din Qunbar. It was opened on November 11, 2016, and its contents are mostly linked to ISIS and the global jihad. The appearance of some of his friends would seem to indicate their affiliation with radical Islam. The last posting was on January 8, 2017, at 13:10, that is, a few minutes before the attack. The posting included a video of someone praying but did not indicate an intention to carry out an attack.
13. Most of the postings dealt with events in Syria and Turkey. The local context of Jabel Mukaber is not mentioned and there is not mention of an intention to carry out an attack. Moreover, the pattern of past attacks has been to fill Facebook pages of shaheeds with reactions from those who identify with them. In this case no response has been posted that might indicate the owner of the Facebook page had been killed. Thus it is doubtful that the Facebook page of Abu Izz al-Din Qunbar (which has indications of ISIS) belonged to the Fadi al-Qunbar who carry out the vehicular attack in Armon Hanatziv.
Facebook page of Abu Izz al-Din Qunbar
Responses to the Attack
14. The terrorist organizations welcomed and praised the attack. Throughout Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip Palestinians celebrated by handing out candy and cookies, lighting fireworks and holding support rallies. Mass marches were held in the cities to celebrate the attack (Gaza al-A'an, January 8, 2017). In the Jilazoun refugee camp (north of Ramallah) someone drew a picture on a wall glorifying the "intifada truck" attack. The graffiti read, "The shaheed Fadi Qunbar. From Jilazoun to [Jabel] Mukaber...Bash in a Zionist head" (Facebook page of QudsN, January 8, 2017).
The Arabic reads, "...Bash in a Zionist head..." A graffiti on a wall in the Jilazoun refugee camp, north of Ramallah (Facebook page of QudsN, January 8, 2017).
The Palestinian Authority (PA)
15. So far the PA has not responded to the vehicular attack in Armon Hanatziv. As a matter of principle, the PA supports the so-called "popular resistance," of which vehicular attacks are an important type of action. Fatah's responseto a condemnation from Turkey was, "The Palestinian resistance is not terrorism" (See below).
16. The PA-affiliated media also did not respond to the attack. Some of them mentioned it in a few words. The Wafa news agency published a selection of pictures from the scene of the attack. Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, the official PA organ, published a report of the attack on its front page, accusing Israel of exploiting the attack for incitement against the PA (al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, January 9, 2017).
The vehicular attack in "occupied Jerusalem" as reported on the front page of al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, the PA's official newspaper (al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, January 9, 2017).
17. Responses from Hamas were the following:
a. Musheir al-Masri, a senior Hamas figure, said the vehicular attack in Jerusalem was the natural response to the "crimes of the occupation" and showed the "Jerusalem intifada" continued (Facebook page of QudsN, January 8, 2017).
b. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoumsaid the "heroic act" was an aspect of defending the holy sites, especially al-Aqsa mosque. He stated that Hamas welcomed the attack and that it showed the "Jerusalem intifada" was continuing and that Israel's aggression and violence would not break the desire of the Palestinians to continue the "resistance" (Safa, January 8, 2017).
c. Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassemsaid the attack proved that the Palestinian people had chosen the "option of resistance," and that the Palestinian who carried it out had realized his natural right to resist the "occupation." He said the attack showed the "Jerusalem intifada" was not a passing occurrence or a popular wave of rage, but a Palestinian decision to revolt until the end of the occupation (al-Jihad website, January 8. 2017).
d. Ahmed Yusuf, a senior Hamas figure in the Gaza Strip, claimed the attack in Jerusalem was "legal" because it targeted Israeli soldiers in east Jerusalem.
Gazans celebrate the vehicular attack. Left: Hamas holds a march in solidarity with the attack in the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip (Facebook page of QudsN, January 8, 2017). Right: Handing out candy in the streets of Gaza (Twitter account of Palinfo, January 8, 2017).
Hamas cartoons. Left: Glorifying the attack and the terrorist who carried it out. The Arabic reads, "Jabel Mukaber attack in occupied Jerusalem" (Facebook page of al-Risalah, January 8, 2017). Right: An old Palestinian woman stands next to a grave, wishes for a happy new year and prays for a rain of dead Israeli soldiers. The headstone reads, "Attack in Jerusalem" (alresala.net, January 9, 2017).
Fatah and Hamas Protest Turkey's Condemnation of the Attack
18. Turkey, which has recently experienced many terrorist attacks, expressed sorrow for the attack. Binali Yıldırım, the Turkish prime minister, said he was very sad because of the victims of the terrorist attack in Jerusalem in which four Israelis were killed and 20 wounded (Facebook page of QudsN, January 8, 2017). Mehmet Şimşek, deputy Turkish prime minister, condemned the terrorist attack in Jerusalem and said humanity deserved that the nations of the world unite against terrorism and those who carry it out (Twitter account of Mehmet Şimşek, January 8, 2017).
19. The Turkish response was met with rage by the Palestinians. The Palestinian social networks posted anger and shocked surprise. Fatah issued a response on its official Facebook page, hashtag in Turkish, claiming that "#the Palestinian resistance is not terrorism" (Facebook page of Fatah, January 9, 2017). As far as Fatah and the PA are concerned, popular terrorism, which includes vehicular attacks, is not regarded as terrorism.
Left: A Fatah hashtag in Turkish and Arabic claiming "The Palestinian resistance is not terrorism..." (Facebook page of Fatah, January 9, 2017). Right: Mehmet Şimşek, deputy Turkish prime minister, tweets to condemn the terrorist attack in Jerusalem (Twitter account of Mehmet Şimşek, January 8, 2017).
20. Hamas also criticized the Turkish responses. Senior Hamas figure Ibrahim Salah(who lives in Qatar), claimed the Turkish response was shameful and unacceptable. Adham Abu Salmiya, responsible for international relations in the ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip, said the Turkish condemnation was disappointing and saddening, and in his opinion did not reflect Turkey's position (QudsN, January 8, 2017).
Jabel Mukaber as a Source of Terrorists in Jerusalem
21. In the past Jabel Mukaber was a village south of Jerusalem, and over the years became a neighborhood in the city. Almost 30,000 Palestinians live there. Most of them came from the Bedouin tribe of al-Sawahra, spread throughout the region between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Most of the residents work in Jerusalem. Governmental-municipal involvement in the affairs of the village is fairly weak.
22. Many of the terrorist attacks in Jerusalem were carried out by Palestinians from Jabel Mukaber. Two of them were particularly prominent, and had a large number of casualties:
a. On March 6, 2008, a Palestinian terrorist armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle carried out a mass-killing attack at the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem. He killed eight yeshiva students and wounded ten. The terrorist was Alaa Hashem Abu Dheim, from Jabel Mukaber. The attacker was a school bus driver and carried a blue Israeli ID card, which enabled him to move freely in Israeli territory. His family erected a mourning tent for him and hung Hamas and Hezbollah flags in it, but the Jerusalem police ordered them taken down.
b. On November 18, 2014, two terrorists, armed with a gun and meat cleavers, entered a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem, and slaughtered four of the men praying there. They shot a policemanwho came to the synagogue, wounding him fatally. He died several hours later. Six men were wounded. The terrorists who carried out the attack were Ghassan Abu Jaml, 27, and Uday Abu Jaml, 22, cousins from Jabel Mukaber.
23. Palestinians from Jabel Mukaber played an important role in the wave of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem which began in September 2015. They carried out the following attacks.
a. The combined shooting and stabbing attack in Armon Hanatziv on October 13, 2015: Two Palestinians from Jabel Mukaber got on a number 78 busarmed with a gun and knife. They fired the gun and stabbed passengers. Israeli security forces who identified the terrorists and shot them. The terrorists killed three Israelis.
b. The combined vehicular and stabbing attack on Malkei Israel street in Jerusalem on October 13, 2015: A Palestinian from Jabel Mukaber who worked for a telecommunications company drove a company car into a bus stop on Malkei Israel street, killing one man and wounding another.
c. An attempted stabbing attack in Armon Hanatziv on October 17, 2015: When Border Policemen wanted to examine a suspicious person on the promenade in Adnan Hassan Mahmoud he drew a knife and tried to stab them. He was shot and killed. He was a Palestinian from Jabel Mukaber.
d. An attack carried out with a bottle near the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem on November 2, 2015: A Palestinian from Jabel Mukaber attacked a female tour guide near the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem. The terrorist approached the guide and when she turned around, he hit her over the head with the bottle and fled. She was wounded and evacuated to a hospital. The Israeli security forces searched for and detained the attacker.
e. Women attacked on the promenade in Armon Hanatziv on May 10, 2016: Two Palestinians attacked a group of old women walking on the promenade in Armon Hanatziv. They fled to Jabel Mukaber. Two of the women were seriously injured and evacuated to a hospital. A search for the two was conducted, and two Palestinians were detained on suspicion of involvement in the attack.
Vehicular Attacks as Part of Popular Terrorism
1. Israel has had to deal with vehicular attacks carried out by Palestinian terrorist operatives since the first intifada (1987). There are fewer vehicular attacksthan other types of terrorist attacks, but they are far more deadly. The main focus of vehicular attacks is greater Jerusalem because of its easy access to Israel population centers (although vehicular attacks have also been carried out in Judea and Samaria).
2. Since 2009 vehicular attacks have been carried out as part of what the Palestinians call the "popular resistance" (i.e., popular terrorism). They are generally carried out by lone terrorists who do not belong to an established terrorist organization. They are sometimes carried out spontaneously, making it hard for early detection and prevention. Some of the Palestinians who carry out vehicular attacks live in east Jerusalem and thus carry ordinary blue Israeli ID cards, which makes it easy for them to enter Israeli population centers in Jerusalem.
3. Most of the vehicular attacks were carried out with ordinary civilian vehicles, but some of them were carried out with heavy equipment, used to increase the number of victims. The attack using a heavy truck as the weapon carried out on January 8, 2017, was the first of its kind. It was probably inspired by the similar attacks in Nice and Berlincarried out by terrorists inspired by ISIS (84 dead in Nice and 12 in Berlin). ISIS accompanied those vehicular attacks with a media campaign encouraging its supporters abroad to carry out attacks, including vehicular attacks in crowded locations. ISIS instructed its supporters to use heavy trucks that could reach high speeds, and increase the number of casualties.
4. The Israeli security forces learned the lessons of the attacks. They have protected bus stops, the entrances to important buildings and IDF posts with concrete blocks or concrete barriers. Those measures have reduced the number of casualties in vehicular attacks, but have not prevented them.
Extent of Vehicular Attacks and Their Place in Popular Terrorism
5. The first vehicular attack was carried out on February 18, 1987, during the first intifada. A terrorist rammed into the vehicle of an IDF patrol in the Askar refugee camp in Nablus.One soldier was killed and another critically wounded. The terrorist was shot and killed. In the following years vehicular attacks were carried out sporadically.
6. During the second intifada and the years following it (2000-2008) Palestinians carried out approximately 20 vehicular attacks, killing 15 people. Prominent were three in Jerusalem, two of which used heavy equipment (front loaders). They killed three Israelis and wounded about 100. During 2012 and 2013 there was a relatively small number of vehicular attacks in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, killing one Israeli and wounding several members of the Israeli security forces.
7. During the recent wave of popular terrorism(which peaked in October 2015) the extent of vehicular attacks rose significantly compared with previous years. Since October 2015, 38 of 277 major terrorist attacks have been vehicular attacks (most major attacks have involved stabbing or shooting).
Significant Vehicular Attacks Since 2008
8. Examples follow of significant vehicular attacks carried out since 2008.
a. September 16, 2016– A Palestinian vehicle with a driver and female passenger sped towards a bus stop at the Elias Junction (near the entrance of Kiryat Arba) where three Israeli boys were waiting, hitting them. An IDF force at the location responded by shooting at the car, killing the driver and wounding the passenger. Two of the boys were injured.
b. May 3, 2016– A Palestinian driving a van hit three IDF soldiers near the community of Dolev in the Benjamin region. All three were injured, one seriously. A fourth soldier shot and killed the driver of the van. The Palestinians issued a video showing the van racing towards the soldiers, who were engaged in examining another vehicle.
c. March 14, 2016– Two Palestinian terrorists tried to run over Israeli civilians at a bus stop at the Elias Junction (near the entrance of Kiryat Arba). They also shot at the Israelis. One soldier was wounded. An IDF force securing the junction shot and killed the two terrorists. While the incident was being dealt with another Palestinian vehicle drove up and hit an IDF officer. The officer and another soldier were wounded. The Palestinian terrorist in the second car was also shot and killed.
d. March 4, 2016– A Palestinian drove to the Gush Etzion Junction. He drove up onto the sidewalk and hit a soldier, injuring him.
e. November 4, 2015– A Palestinian terrorist drove his car to the Halhul Junction (north of Hebron)and hit a group of soldiers, wounding one critically. The terrorist was shot and killed.
f. October 3, 2015– A Palestinian terrorist employed by a telecommunications company drove a company car into a bus stop on Malkei Israel street in Jerusalem. One man was killed and another wounded. The attacker got out of the car armed with a knife and attacked and wounded other civilians.
g. April 25, 2015– A Palestinian drove a vehicle at high speed and hit Border Policemen in east Jerusalem (near A-Tor and the Mt. of Olives). Four policemen were injured. The policemen at the roadblock shot at the vehicle but it drove away. A search later revealed the vehicle but the driver escaped.
h. April 16, 2015– Late in the evening a man and woman standing at a bus stop at the French Hill Junctionwere attacked. A car driving at high speed veered from its lane and hit the two. The man was fatally wounded and later died; the woman was critically wounded.
i. March 6, 2015– A car drove to a Border Police base in northern Jerusalem. The car drove onto the sidewalk near the base and hit five people, four of them members of the security forces. It then drove away. After several shots were fired at him, he got out of the car armed with a knife. He was shot and overcome by police.
j. November 5, 2014– A Palestinian carried out a vehicular attack in Jerusalem, killing a Border Policeman and a 17 year-old boy, and wounding 12 people, some of them critically. Hamas claimed the terrorist was one of its operatives and called for more such attacks.
k. October 22, 2014– A Palestinian terrorist from east Jerusalem carried out a vehicular attack at the light railway station at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. A three month-old baby girl was killed and eight people were wounded. One of them, a woman about 20 years old, was critically wounded.
l. August 4, 2014– During Operation Protective Edge a Palestinian took a tractor from a construction site in the center of Jerusalemand drove it into a passerby, killing him. He then drove into a bus parked nearby and tried to use the blade of the tractor to overturn it. There were no passengers on the bus, only the driver and a bus company employee. They were wounded but managed to get off the bus. A member of the prison service shot and killed the terrorist. Five people were wounded in the attack.
m.October 17, 2013– A Palestinian tried to drive a tractor into an IDF base near A-Ram (southeast of Ramallah). He drove through the base fence and tried to use the blade of the tractor to hit soldiers and overturn a parked jeep. He was shot and killed.
n. September 9, 2012 – A security officer of the community of Shaarei Tikva was killed in a vehicular attack between the community of Oranit and the village of Elqana (west of Ariel). He was killed trying to stop and document a vehicle carrying Palestinians to work in Israeli illegally. The driver was from Kafar Qassem and fled; he was later apprehended.
o. March 5, 2009– A Palestinian drove a tractor into a police patrol car near the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem. He lowered the tractor blade onto roof of a patrol car that had been called in to deal with an accident. Two policemen were in the car at the time and were injured. The terrorist was shot and killed.
p. July 22, 2008– A Palestinian took a tractor from a construction site near the Jerusalem neighborhood of Yemin Mosheand drove it at high speed down a main street. On the way he hit a number of vehicles and wounded 28 people. He was shot by a Border Policeman.
q. July 2, 2008– A Palestinian terrorist from east Jerusalem took a large tractor from a construction site and drove it at high speed along a main street (Sarei Israel) to a crowded area in central Jerusalem. He hit everything on the way. He drove to another main street (Jaffa Road), indiscriminately hitting people and cars. He killed three people and wounded about 70. Eventually he was shot and killed by the Israeli security forces.