A day of disbelief

Everyone agreed that it was a terrorist attack that could not have been foreseen.

The driver of the number 13 bus attacked by 31-year-old Husam Dwiat told reporters that his first response had been to harangue him for bad driving.

“When he first hit us,” said Assaf Nadav, “I opened the window to shout at him about his driving. I thought it was just a careless accident. Then he turned the bulldozer around and tipped us over with his shovel.”

Disbelief coloured all the eyewitness accounts and was a factor in the long delay before a group of off-duty policemen, soldiers and civilians finally managed to commandeer the bulldozer and shoot Dwiat.

Moshe Mizrachi, who works in an office overlooking the street, said: “I was shouting at the police to shoot. The bulldozer was crushing cars and everybody was scared to fire. They could have saved lives by shooting earlier.”

 Police commissioner Dudi Levi praised the resolution of the men who had jumped on the bulldozer and shot Dwiat, but the surprise was so great that the first response was slow and hesitant. Twenty-year-old British student Jeremy Aaronson, of Salford, was walking up Jaffa Road towards the central bus station when he saw a policeman running towards him.

“Then he turned around and shot with his handgun at the drivers cab, but he kept on coming. Then an undercover policeman, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, jumped on to the bulldozer and shot inside the cab and the bulldozer stopped on a car, and then drove back a bit.”

At this stage Dwiat had already been severely wounded, but a stone thrown at him appeared to revive him and he drove forward a few more metres.

 This time it was a young soldier of the Golani Brigade, still in basic training, who jumped on the cab and shot him dead. If Dwiat had managed to drive another block down Jaffa Road, he could have turned on to the main street of the Mahane Yehuda market, and ploughed in to hundreds of shoppers.

There were sickening scenes of destruction with battered buses and crushed cars strewn along the half-kilometre-long stretch of road where three Israelis were killed and more than 50 wounded.

Moti Butzkin, one of the first ZAKA members on the scene, said: “I saw the bulldozer standing with its four wheels on a completely crushed car. I realised the passenger had no chance and went for another damaged car. I tried to resuscitate the driver, but to my regret she was dead.”

For the past three years, the area has been filled with construction sites for the Jerusalem light-rail network. A bulldozer on the main road was not an unusual sight and that also was a cause of the delay of police to react.

The last stages of the drama were played out right underneath the building where most international broadcasters have their Jerusalem studios.

Cameramen were already filming before the rampage was over and the pictures were beamed around the world. Four hours later, when the debris had been cleared, they were already broadcasting scenes of Jerusalem back to normal.

 

    Last updated: 1:58pm, July 3 2008