“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
“We express our deepest condolences to the family of the baby, reportedly an American citizen, who was killed in this despicable attack, and extend our prayers for a full recovery to those injured. We urge all sides to maintain calm and avoid escalating tensions in the wake of this incident.”
Earlier in the day Psaki’s State Department colleague, Marie Harf, said the administration was seeking more details about the attack, and also urged “all sides to exercise restraint and maintain calm.”
Israeli authorities identified the perpetrator as 21 year-old Adbel-Rahman Shaludi from Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood of Jerusalem. They said he was a member of Hamas, and had served a 16-month prison term for “terror activities” in 2012-13.
After he drove his car into pedestrians waiting at a light rail station, gravely injuring baby Chaya Zissel Braun and also hurting eight other people including Chaya’s father, police said Shaludi tried to flee but was shot and wounded. He later died of his injuries in hospital.
Israel’s foreign ministry said Chaya “flew at least ten meters from her stroller after being struck by the car. Critically injured in the attack, she died of her head wounds an hour later in the nearby Mount Scopus Hadassah Hospital.”
Of the eight other people hurt two were in critical condition, it said.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told the Associated Press that Chaya and her parents were American citizens.
Israeli media quoted Hamas spokesman Hossam Badran as telling Hamas’ television station in Gaza, “This is a natural response to the crimes of the occupation and invasion of our land by the Jews, particular on the Al-Aqsa mosque.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu blamed Hamas – and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen), who signed a unity agreement with Hamas in May, and last Friday called on Palestinians to defend the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount from purported Israeli threats “by any means.”
“This is how Abu Mazen's partners in government act, the same Abu Mazen who – only a few days ago – incited toward a terrorist attack in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
The Palestinian news agency Ma’an meanwhile cited unnamed witnesses as saying Shaludi had “lost control of his vehicle” and stressing “that the incident appeared to be an accident.”
In Ma’an’s version, Shaludi did not try to flee, but after he “exited his vehicle after striking the pedestrians … he was shot in the back by the guards.”
Hours after the attack, dozens of Palestinians rioted in Silwan, throwing rocks and petrol bombs, police reported.
Wednesday was not the first time a vehicle has been used as a weapon in a Palestinian terror attack, the foreign ministry said.
“Numerous terrorist attacks using private cars and other vehicles have been carried out in Jerusalem in the past,” it said. “The last attack occurred in August when a Palestinian used a digger to overturn a bus, killing a father of five and injuring five others.”