Questions plague Palestinian mother after deadly car attack

JERUSALEM (AFP) - The mother of a young Palestinian behind a car attack in Jerusalem which killed a baby was on Thursday struggling to answer questions raised by her son's actions.

Mr Abdelrahman Shaludi, 21, drove his car at high speed into a group of pedestrians on Wednesday evening, killing a three-month-old baby and wounding six other people in what police described as a "hit-and-run terror attack."

After the car stopped, Mr Shaludi tried to flee but was shot by police, later dying in hospital from his injuries.

Mr Shaludi came from Silwan in annexed east Jerusalem, where many locals wondered whether the tragedy was just an accident.

At the family home, Mr Shaludi's mother Inas Sharif, 42, struggled to come to terms with the events of the past 24 hours.

"I cannot say if it was on purpose or just a simple car accident," she told reporters at her home, where she lives with her husband and remaining four children.

"If it was really an attack, why didn't he have explosives in his car - or even just Molotov cocktails?" she said as she served coffee and dates to women who came to pay their condolences as men gathered outside in a traditional mourning tent.

Only hours before the incident, she had taken her son to the doctor who had advised him to see a therapist after days of exhibiting signs of mental exhaustion.

As a mother, Ms Sharif said she could identify with the loss felt by the woman whose baby girl was killed. "I feel her pain, I am a mother after all," she said. "I don't wish any mother in the world to lose her child."

Outside, chunks of rock and the blackened remains of burnt tyres littered the streets of Silwan, the remains of hours of rioting after the incident.

Mr Shaludi was already known to Israeli police. He had spent 14 months in prison for stone-throwing and was released in December 2013.

He was arrested again in February and held for 20 days as Israeli investigators tried to establish whether he was involved with Hamas. But they found nothing and released him.

Israel has claimed that Mr Shaludi was a Hamas activist. Although his mother's late brother, Muhi al-Din Sharif, was a senior Hamas bomb-maker who was killed in the West Bank in 1998, there has been no independent confirmation Mr Shaludi belonged to the movement.

Since his arrest in February, Israeli investigators had not left him alone, his mother said. "They kept on harassing him and summoning him for questioning over and over again and they tried to enlist him into working for them, but he repeatedly refused.

They threatened him, saying he would never find work or be able to continue his education or have a normal life," she said. Israel has retained Mr Shaludi's body for a post mortem, with the family expecting it will be handed over on Sunday for burial.