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Terror Returns to Jerusalem Marring Balmy Christmas

Jerusalem– Two Palestinian assailants attacked Israelis standing at a downtown bus stop just after noon on Wednesday. The attack took place next to Jaffa Gate, the most popular entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City, wounding two, one critically.

Border police officers stationed nearby due to the site’s importance shot the attackers, killing one, fatally injuring the second, and critically injuring a third person who was waiting at the stop.

Palestinian media identified the attackers as Anan Abu Habsah and Issa Assaf from Qalandia, between Jerusalem and Ramallah. The Israeli daily Haaretz posted a video showing the surviving stabber being kicked and beaten by civilians as he lay on the ground after being shot.

It was a brutal interruption of an unseasonably sunny, balmy day for the city that is suffering an unusually quiet Christmas season. Fearing the terror attacks that have plagued Israel since early October, when an amorphous spate of stabbings began, tourists have by and large stayed away.

A few dozen foreign visitors, led by a guide wielding a large yellow umbrella, were kept from entering the Old City as police, emergency workers, canine units and even cameramen blocked their way. A few climbed up on low stone benches that line the passage leading to Jaffa Gate, some taking cellphone pictures of the proceedings.

A group of three young American women seemed perplexed by the ruckus impeding their way.
Over 20 people have been killed by Palestinian attackers in the wave of violence that started in early October, and over 200 have been wounded. Over 100 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli security services.

Also on Wednesday, 25 Palestinians alleged to be members of a Hamas cell were arrested in a joint army, police and secret service operation. The ring was commanded by Hamas, the extremist Islamic movement that rules the Gaza Strip.

Most of those apprehended are students at Al-Quds University in Abu Dis, a Jerusalem neighborhood. In a statement, Israeli authorities said the cell was headed by Ahmed Jamal Musa Azam, 24, from Qalqilya. Ahmed Azam, another man arrested, was recruited by Hamas terror operatives in Gaza with the aim of establishing a terror ring and infrastructure that could carry out suicide and bombing attacks throughout Israel.