I saw into digger driver’s eyes’

Ronit Tamari stands trembling by a damaged bus shelter, a battered maroon pick-up truck and a badly dented litter bin.

She rushed to Jerusalem’s King David Street as soon as she heard the driver of a construction vehicle had begun ramming into cars just metres from where her 14-year-old son Liram was at a YMCA summer camp.

Knowing three people were killed in a similar incident three weeks ago, she says she “almost had a heart attack”.

The bus shelter marks the start of a trail of damage left in the wake of the yellow earth-mover, which was turned into a weapon by its driver, injuring at least 10 people.

Further down the hill sit the remains of a heavily-crushed white Peugeot 205, an upturned silver car and then the mechanical digger itself, which came to a halt after the driver was shot by a policeman.

Looked in the eye

Yohanan Levin, 16, was returning home to his apartment, just across the road, at the time of the attack. He says he froze in panic when he saw the digger ram into a bus.

Ronit Tamari and Liram Tamari
They found a new trick – tractors. And later, they’ll find another trick
Ronit Tamari, pictured with her son
“I was 10 metres away. I saw him. He saw me. I looked him the eye,” he told the BBC.

“I heard people screaming. After five or six minutes, I heard the gunshot. Then it went quiet,” he added.

Ms Tamari is relieved to have found her son, but angry, especially at the news that the attacker Ghassan Abu Teir was a member of Jerusalem’s Arab population.

Some 240,000 Palestinians live within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, including some like Mr Abu Rahma whose village was formerly designated as part of the West Bank.

This population came under Israeli occupation in 1967 and most have not taken Israeli citizenship. But their Israeli residency permits allow them to move and work all over the city, though they say they face widespread discrimination.

“They are working in hospitals and restaurants. They earn money from Israel and then they go home in the evening and plan terrorist attacks,” Ms Tamari said.

“They found a new trick – tractors,” she says. “And later, they’ll find another trick.”

Demolition demand

A well-known right-wing protester appears, clutching a poster depicting US President George W Bush and Israeli President Shimon Peres in Arafat-style headdresses and shouting “Dichter go home” – a reference to Israel’s Minister of Public Security, Avi Dichter.

Damaged car
Many Israelis would destroy attackers’ homes to deter future attacks
“The same happened three weeks ago, the guy’s house is still standing, it’s going to happen again,” he yells, in reference to plans to demolish the last attacker’s house, which have not yet been carried out.

A handful of young men clad in white shirts and skull caps later take up the chant.

But Amnon Shachal, a musician and researcher, looks on more in sadness than anger.

“I don’t know if there is a solution. You can’t defend yourselves against something like this,” he says.

“Arabs and Israelis have been working together for so many generations,” he points out, although he believes that after the two attacks, Palestinians should not be allowed to work in the construction industry.

Should attackers’ homes be destroyed? “I think it may work for a while, but I don’t think it will solve everything,” he says.

Learn to live together

A couple of hundred metres up the road, opposite the King David Hotel where US presidential hopeful Barack Obama is due to arrive within hours, David Pinchas is more sanguine.

“I don’t think it is a big deal,” the shop owner says – relieved that no-one was killed apart from the perpetrator of the attack.

Mr Pinchas contrasts the two recent vehicle attacks with the situation a few years ago, when “suicide bombers were everywhere” in Jerusalem.

“This is just localised cases – individual cases – perhaps somebody trying to take revenge. But actually nobody knows – both of them [the drivers of the vehicles used in the attacks] have been killed so we can’t talk to them,” he points out.

“There’s no organisation behind it that sent them to do it.

“We have to learn to live together. We have a quarter of a million Arab citizens [in the city] – we can’t treat them all as terrorists.”

As the afternoon wears on, street sweepers brush away the broken glass, while various vehicles are brought in to tow away the damaged cars.

Among them is a yellow earth-mover – almost identical to the one used in the attack – driven, as most of those around me I assume, by a driver of Palestinian origin.

Ref: BBC

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