Jamal Hamam Mesalmeh, 23, claims he drove into soldiers on purpose, police say
Attack happened November 5 in the West Bank; three soldiers were injured
Violent incident was one of several in recent weeks in the West Bank and Jerusalem
A Palestinian man has admitted to deliberately ramming a vehicle into three Israeli soldiers in the West Bank two weeks ago – one of several recent cases of violence in the Palestinian territory or Jerusalem – Israeli police said Thursday.
Jamal Hamam Mesalmeh, 23, turned himself in to Israeli authorities shortly after the November 5 incident near the village of al-Aroub and claimed it was an accident, police said. The soldiers suffered moderate injuries, officials said at the time.
Israeli police said Mesalmeh is an activist associated with the Islamist Hamas movement. Police said he claimed he was inspired in part by an attack in eastern Jerusalem earlier November 5 – one in which Israeli authorities said a Palestinian drove into pedestrians at a rail station, killing two Israelis and at least 12 other people before police shot and killed the driver.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have worsened in recent months, agitated in part by arguments over the Jerusalem holy site called the Temple Mount by Jews and Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, by Muslims.
Those incidents include Tuesday’s attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, where Israeli authorities say two Palestinian cousins wielding a gun killed four worshipers and a police officer before the assailants themselves were killed. It was the deadliest attack in Jerusalem since 2008.
Hamas did not claim responsibility for Tuesday’s killings, but a spokesman for the group linked it to the discovery Sunday of a Palestinian bus driver hanged in his bus not far from the synagogue. Israeli authorities say the bus driver’s death was a suicide, but his family disputes that, claiming he was attacked.
The violence followed other hit-and-run incidents last month.
On October 22, a Palestinian man rammed his car into commuters waiting at a light-rail stop in Jerusalem, killing a baby and wounding several other people Israeli police said. Three days earlier, a 5-year-old girl died after an Israeli settler deliberately ran her over as she returned him from kindergarten in the West Bank, Palestinian state news reported.
CNN’s Kareem Khadder reported from Jerusalem. CNN’s Jason Hanna wrote in Atlanta. CNN’s Chelsea J. Carter, Jethro Mullen and Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.