JENIN, West Bank (AP) — A Palestinian man drove his car into a crowded bus stop in Tel Aviv on Tuesday and then began stabbing people, wounding eight in an attack praised by the Islamist militant group Hamas as a response to Israel’s ongoing military operation in the occupied West Bank.
Police chief Kobi Shabtai told reporters at the scene that an armed civilian shot and killed the assailant.
The attack came as Israeli troops pressed ahead with their hunt for Palestinian militants and weapons in a refugee camp, after military bulldozers tore through alleys and thousands of residents fled to safety. The two-day Palestinian death toll rose to 10.
The large-scale raid of the Jenin camp, which began Monday, is one of the most intense military operations in the occupied West Bank in nearly two decades.
It bore hallmarks of Israeli military tactics during the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s and came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces growing pressure from his ultranationalist political allies for a tough response to recent attacks on Israeli settlers, including a shooting last month that killed four people.
But the current violence is also different from the intense years of what was known as the second intifada, a period that claimed thousands of lives. It’s more limited in scope, with Israeli military operations focused on several strongholds of Palestinian militants.
More than 140 Palestinians have been killed this year in the West Bank, part of more than a yearlong spike in violence. Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis have killed at least 26 people.
The Hamas militant group praised Tuesday’s attack in Tel Aviv as “heroic and revenge for the military operation in Jenin” and later claimed the driver was a member, though it was not immediately clear if the attacker was dispatched by the group or acted on his own. Islamic Jihad, a militant group with a large presence in Jenin, also praised the assault.
Israeli’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, identified the attacker as a Palestinian from the West Bank with no prior security record.
Shabtai, the police chief, said that several people connected to the man were arrested but did not provide details.
Earlier in the day, rubble littered the streets of Jenin and there were reports of damage to shops. Columns of black smoke periodically punctuated the skyline over the camp, which along with an adjacent town of the same name has been a flashpoint since Israeli-Palestinian violence began escalating in spring 2022. It was also a hotbed of Palestinian militant activity in the uprising in the early 2000s.
Jenin Mayor Nidal Al-Obeidi said that around 4,000 Palestinians had fled the Jenin refugee camp, finding accommodation in the homes of relatives and in shelters. Residents said there was no water or electricity in the camp.
Across the West Bank, Palestinians observed a general strike to protest the Israeli raid.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said Tuesday that the two-day death toll rose to 10, with two more deaths reported overnight. The Israeli military has claimed all were militants, but did not provide details.
During Tuesday’s operations, the military said it seized weapons and explosives and demolished tunnels beneath a mosque in the refugee camp. Israeli media reported that the army had arrested at least 120 suspected Palestinian militants since Monday.
A spokesman for the Israeli military, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said Monday that Israel had launched the operation because some 50 attacks over the past year had emanated from Jenin.
The Palestinian self-rule government in the West Bank and three Arab countries with normalized ties with Israel – Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates – condemned Israel’s incursion, as did the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Israel says the raids are meant to crack down on Palestinians militants and thwart attacks. The Palestinians say such violence is inevitable in the absence of any political process with Israel and increased West Bank settlement construction and violence by extremist settlers.
Israel says most of those killed have been militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and people uninvolved in confrontations have also died.
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.