2 people killed in shooting attack in Jerusalem, Palestinian assailant killed by the police

Israeli police secure the area following a shooting incident near police headquarters in Jerusalem on Oct 9, 2016.
Israeli police secure the area following a shooting incident near police headquarters in Jerusalem on Oct 9, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

JERUSALEM (REUTERS/AFP/BLOOMBERG) - A shooting attack in Jerusalem on Sunday (Oct 9) left two people dead, with the Palestinian assailant killed by the police, in an attack the authorities described as a terrorist attack.

The police had earlier reported that six people were wounded, with two women and a police officer among those badly hurt.

A gunman opened fire from his car on people waiting at a light-rail station in the capital, then shot another woman as she was driving, police spokesman Luba Samri said in a text message.

The attacker then headed toward the nearby neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, where a number of upscale hotels are located, and got out of his car, police said. As officers approached him by motorcycle, he opened fire on them.

"When the terrorist spotted the police he fired at them, and they managed to shoot and kill him," the police spokesman said. One of the police officers was shot by the gunman during the exchange, she said.

Police identified the assailant as a 39-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem.

A spokesman for the Israeli emergency service Magen David Adom said six people were injured in all.

The attack occurred near police headquarters, close to the line dividing mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem from the mostly Jewish western sector of the city. The area is also located near a light rail station.

A police spokesman, in a text message to reporters, described the incident as a terrorist attack.

The attack comes close to the one-year anniversary of the Palestinian "stabbing intifada", a wave of knife, gun and car-ramming attacks carried out mostly by individuals unaffiliated with the main Palestinian militant groups.

It also comes at a time of increased Jewish visitors to the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem for the holidays of Rosh Hashanah, which was last week, and Yom Kippur, which begins Tuesday evening.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at the start of a cabinet meeting on Sunday, saluted the police, saying they had "acted rapidly and very firmly against the terrorist, who was eliminated".

A spokesman for Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, welcomed the attack. Fawzi Barhoum called it "a natural reaction to the crimes and violations of the occupation against our people". The Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement also praised that attack, calling it "heroic".

In the past year, at least 220 Palestinians have died in violent incidents in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

Of those, 149 were identified by authorities as assailants while others were killed during clashes and protests.

Palestinians, many acting alone and with rudimentary weapons, have killed at least 33 Israelis and two visiting Americans in the attacks.

Israel says anti-Israeli incitement by Palestinian officials and on social media networks is stoking attacks.

Palestinian leaders say assailants are acting out of desperation over the collapse in 2014 of peace talks and the expansion of Israeli settlements on occupied land that Palestinians seek for an independent state.