Palestinian man goes on stabbing rampage in Israel just minutes away from Joe Biden's meeting with Shimon Peres

By @giherela on
A boy rides past blood stains where, according to Israeli police spokesperson, at least 10 Israelis were stabbed, in the popular Jaffa port area of Tel Aviv, Israel March 8, 2016. Reuters/Amir Cohen

US Vice President Joe Biden was at a meeting in Jaffa, Israel on Tuesday when just kilometres away, a Palestinian man went on a stabbing rampage, killing an American tourist and injuring at least nine others, including a pregnant woman and a Russian tourist.

The attacker, identified by police as 22-year-old Bashar Masalha from a West Bank Palestinian refugee camp in Qalqilya, had stabbed and wounded three people along a boardwalk near the beach, a popular tourist area, before fleeing and injuring seven others in two other locations.

Authorities eventually managed to locate and zero in on Masalha, shooting him dead.

One of Masalha’s victims was US tourist and student at Vanderbilt University, Taylor Allen Force, who reportedly died on his way to a Tel Aviv hospital.

“It is with extreme sadness that I write to inform you that Taylor Force, a student at our Owen Graduate School of Management, was fatally wounded March 8 in a stabbing attack while on an Owen school trip to Tel Aviv, Israel,” Vanderbilt University’s Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said in a statement. “All other Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff on the trip are safe.”

The US State Department has also issued a statement:

“We offer our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Taylor and all those affected by these senseless attacks, and we wish a speedy recovery for the injured.

“As we have said many times, there is absolutely no justification for terrorism. We continue to encourage all parties to take affirmative steps to reduce tensions and restore calm.”

RTS9V6T Israeli police search the spot where, according to Israeli police spokesperson, at least 10 Israelis were stabbed, in the popular Jaffa port area of Tel Aviv, Israel March 8, 2016.  Reuters/Amir Cohen

Jaffa, where the attacks took place, is an ancient port city popular with tourists. While some say Jews and Arabs live in relative peace in Jaffa, a 2011 report by Haaretz say Israeli racism towards Arabs in this city is “routine”.

At the time of the attacks, Biden was meeting former Israeli president Shimon Peres just 15 minutes away at the Peres Centre for Peace. Biden is in Israel for a two-day visit with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

RTS9UUK US Vice President Joe Biden (L) was meeting with former Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, around the time the boardwalk attacks took place  Reuters/Amir Cohen

The attack in Jaffa was the third in a string of violent incidences in Israel on Tuesday. Just hours earlier, two Israeli Border Police officers were injured in a drive-by shooting attack near Jerusalem’s Old City, while an Israeli was wounded in a suspected terror stabbing in the town of Petah Tikva.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s Interior Minister Arye Deri urged citizens to “go on with [their] lives” following the attacks, while Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni called on the state to “think outside of the box” in efforts to combat the current wave of violence.

Livni also hopes Biden’s visit would help “lower the flames” of tensions between Israel and Palestine, with speculations Biden will push for peace talks.

The US currently supplies US$3 billion worth of military aid (weapons) each year to Israel, who has been involved in an incredibly bloody territorial dispute with Palestine since 1948, although the conflict dates back to the early 1900s.

“We have absolutely, total unvarnished commitment to the security of Israel,” Biden said during his meeting with Shimon Peres.

Biden will meet with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday, before seeing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He will travel to Jordan on Thursday.

According to the Associated Press, Hamas praised the attacks on Tuesday but did not claim responsibility for them.