JERUSALEM (AP) — A Palestinian stabbed a young British woman to death in Jerusalem as she traveled on the light rail close to the Old City, which was packed with Christians from around the world celebrating Good Friday and Jews enjoying Passover, police and hospital officials said.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said that as the tram approached City Hall, the Palestinian pulled a knife out of his bag and stabbed the woman in her early 20s multiple times in the upper body.
An off duty policeman, who was riding the tram with his family, pulled the emergency brake and charged at the Palestinian attacker, Samri said.
The 57-year-old Palestinian attacker had a history of mental illness, Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service said.
The Hebrew University in Jerusalem said the woman killed, Hannah Bladon, was studying at the school as part of a student exchange program with the University of Birmingham.
She started her studies in Jerusalem at the end of January, the university said. “We extend our deepest condolences to her family and we share in their sorrow,” it said in a statement.
“The university condemns such acts of terror that harm innocent people, and especially a student who came to Jerusalem to study and widen her academic horizons,” it said.
Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center said the woman died soon after she was rushed there following the attack, despite efforts to save her.
Local media said a pregnant woman was injured when the light rail came to a sudden stop.
The attack took place near the Old City that was packed with Christians, many of them tourists from around the world, celebrating the Good Friday holiday, as well as Jews celebrating Passover and Muslims gathered for Friday prayers.
President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement that he is “filled with sadness” over the violence and that Israel’s “thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim.”
He said “this week thousands have come through the ancient gates of Jerusalem, to celebrate the feasts of Passover and Easter throughout the city – while the security forces work to ensure the safety of the dear residents and visitors to the city. And so we will continue to do,” he said. “Terror can never overcome us.
Terror will never destroy our lives here.”
Israel’s Shin Bet said the Palestinian had recently tried to commit suicide in hospital by swallowing a razor blade and that he was convicted of sexually abusing his daughter in 2011.
“This is not the first time that a Palestinian suffering from personal, mental or moral distress has chosen to commit a terrorist attack in order to escape his problems,” it said in a statement.
Apart from Friday’s fatality, Palestinians have killed 42 Israelis and two visiting Americans since September 2015, mainly in stabbings, car ramming assaults and shooting attacks against civilians and security forces.
Israeli forces have killed at least 243 Palestinians during that time, most of them identified as attackers by Israeli authorities.
Israel says the bloodshed is fueled by a Palestinian campaign of incitement, compounded by social media sites glorifying attackers and encouraging violence.
Palestinians say it stems from frustration over decades of Israeli rule in territory they claim for a state.
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