JERUSALEM — A Palestinian driver intentionally rammed his truck into a group of Israeli soldiers on Sunday, killing four and wounding a dozen on a picture-postcard promenade overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City and a park called the “Peace Forest.”

The assault occurred just blocks from the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.

The dead and the wounded were part of a large group of officer cadets who were getting an educational tour.

Israeli officials quickly labeled the truck-ramming a terrorist attack and said the driver was from a nearby East Jerusalem neighborhood.

The Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, applauded the “heroic operation” but did not take responsibility for it.

It was one of the most deadly attacks in more than 18 months of stabbings, shootings and vehicular assaults by Palestinians. It comes just a week before a planned conference in Paris that seeks to push the Israelis and Palestinians to restart their stalled peace talks.

Leah Schreiber, a tour guide escorting the soldiers, said she saw the truck accelerate and jump the curb, plowing into uniformed troops who had just exited their bus.

“It took a few seconds to understand what was happening,” Schreiber said. “That this was a terror attack.”

Surveillance video from the scene shows the truck careening into the soldiers and then rapidly backing up in circles, running over the wounded, as the soldiers and an armed civilian guide began to fire at the vehicle.

Eitan Rod, the armed guide, told Army Radio: “In a fraction of a second during which I was speaking with one of the officers, I saw the truck plowing into us. After a few rolls on the grass, I saw the truck start to reverse and then I already understood that this was not an accident. I felt that my pistol was still on me, so I ran up to him and started emptying my clip. He went in reverse and again drove over the injured.”

Rod told Israeli television that he wondered why army officers at the scene did not shoot first. He blamed Israeli military authorities, which last week convicted a soldier of manslaughter in the killing of an unarmed Palestinian assailant in Hebron as he lay wounded.

Israeli military, however, released video that showed a soldier firing at the truck driver.

At the scene, ambulance crews transported a dozen wounded soldiers.

Rescue workers said three women and a man were killed. Their identities have not been released.

Police chief Roni Alsheich said there was no warning before the attack. “You don’t need more than two to three seconds to find a terrorist target. The soldiers at the scene reacted immediately and killed the attacker,” he said.

Police placed a gag order on Israeli media as authorities worked to identify the assailant and determine whether he had acted alone or in concert with others.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the scene about two hours after the attack.

Arab-language news media identified the truck driver as Fadi al-Kanbar from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber. Israeli TV reports said Kanbar was in his 20s, married, with children.


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