A man in a backhoe went on a rampage today on King David Street in downtown Jerusalem, beginning his path of destruction within 100 yards of where U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama is due to arrive tonight.
Twenty-three people were injured in the attack, according to Israel Radio, with one seriously injured before the East Jerusalem driver was shot dead by a civilian. The driver had an Israeli identification card, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
This is the second attack with a piece of construction equipment in Jerusalem this month, the last one taking place three weeks ago on busy Jaffa Street.
The attack took place as Israeli President Shimon Peres hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his house, near the attack. Abbas condemned the attack, according to Israel Radio.
Yohanan Levine, 16, was on King David Street at the time of the attack, on the way to his house nearby. "The first thing I heard was a baby crying, and then everyone started to panic," he said. "I saw the tractor go into the bus; all the glass on the bus exploded."
The bus driver stopped the bus after it was hit from behind, thinking that the impact was from an accident, according to Jerusalem resident Cochava Kaslasi, who was on the bus at the time.
The backhoe came around the side of the bus, hitting it again, knocking out all the glass from the windows. "Some people fell to the ground," she said. "Some were injured."
The bus then turned off its regular route to let the passengers get off.
The machine then started going into cars, Levine said. "It was doing all the things that the tractor knows how to do, using the fork and the arm of the tractor," Levine said. "It pushed up the bus."
Levine said he looked into the backhoe driver's eyes. "He saw me," Levine said. "And I saw in his eyes only anger."
Kenny Lerner was sitting at a restaurant when the waiter warned him of the attack. "I saw the tractor just go 'boom' into one [car], 'boom' into another," Lerner said, motioning with his hands the frenzied nature of the driver.
Sandy Lerner, his wife, followed her husband out of the restaurant and saw a gruesome sight. "I saw a man bleeding, and there was blood all over," she said. "I was in shock; there was so much blood that I couldn't look."
Lerner chased after the backhoe to see if he could help in any way, and the police arrived within minutes. "All of a sudden there was a lot of shooting from all sides and I wasn't sure if he was killed already."
Ten to 15 shots were fired, according to 16-year-old Nathniel Sterman, who was watching a movie from his house when he heard the noise. "I realized that it was a terrorist attack," he said. "I knew something was wrong after the first bash."
While Obama's hotel is close by, Sterman said that he didn't think a terrorist would be able to get close because of all the security. "But here, this guy was on his lunch break and took his tool and started running around and doing what he did," Sterman said.
"It happened [three] weeks ago and it could happen next week," he said. "I could have been on the street today, or the bus [last time]. Every day is a lucky day."
In the previous attack, the mother of a small child was killed. Lerner said he knows the child's father, Ido Unterman, from a Bible-study class and visited him to mourn his wife. A Palestinian from East Jerusalem was the driver.
"I'm not going to condemn a whole group of people because of these terrorists," Lerner said. "But we need to find out what's going on, do more checks into the people who are behind these tractors."
Information about the driver in Tuesday's attack is not being released until after the investigation, according to government press office director Daniel Seaman.
"As a result we will see increased security measures, which will make life more difficult for Palestinians," he said.