At least thirteen people have been injured during a stabbing attack that occurred on a Tel Aviv bus during the morning rush hour on Wednesday. At least six of the wounded were injured seriously and the victims were transported by paramedics to local hospitals in the area. An Israeli Police spokesman posted a message on Twitter saying that the attack was believed to be a terrorist attack.
The attacker was identified as a 23-year-old Palestinian man from Tulkarem, located in the West Bank northeast of Tel Aviv. It is believed that the suspect crossed into Israel illegally. The violence comes weeks ahead of March elections, in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing challenges to his reelection. Because of his hard line stance against Palestine, the current spate of attacks could swing votes towards Netanyahu.
The bus driver, Herzl Biton, sprayed the attacker with pepper spray during the assault and was stabbed in the upper body and liver. The driver is being hailed as a hero as he was injured blocking the assailant’s path to the other passengers on the bus. The injured driver also succeeded in opening the bus’s back doors to let passengers escape. He is currently listed in serious condition at the hospital.
The attacker fled the scene, but was later chased down, shot in the leg and arrested. Members of the Israel Prison Service were in a vehicle behind the bus and pursued the suspect when they saw him get off the bus. Police sealed the central intersection where the attack occurred as paramedics tended to the wounded. The attacker is currently being questioned by police.
Police have heightened their presence in the city, the second largest in Israel, to deter any other planned attacks and reassure citizens about their safety. Israel has been plagued by these types of “lone-wolf” attacks in recent months. Months of tensions between Jews and Palestinians in east Jerusalem has exploded into violence, unrest, and near daily attacks by Palestinians. Nearly a dozen people have been killed in the attacks, including five killed with guns and meat cleavers in a Jerusalem synagogue.