By Maayan Lubell
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A construction vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian and overturned a bus on a main street in Jerusalem on Monday in what police suspect was a Palestinian attack, which ended when policemen shot dead the driver of the yellow excavator.
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There were no passengers on the bus, in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of the city. Surveillance video broadcast on Israeli television showed the excavator's mechanical arm tearing into the side of the bus as it lay on the sidewalk.
Israeli media said the driver of the digger was a Palestinian from East Jerusalem.
Tensions have been high in Jerusalem for the past month over the Gaza war and the killing of a Palestinian teen in the city by alleged Israeli assailants out to avenge the deaths of three abducted Israeli youngsters in the occupied West Bank.
Yossi Farienti, Jerusalem district police chief, said the excavator "hit a Jewish citizen at a construction site and then drove about 50 metres (yards) down the road, where it overturned the bus with its arm, slightly injuring three people".
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said "police are looking at the incident as a terror attack". He said a police officer shot dead the excavator's driver.
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said the nearly four-week-old Gaza war had also raised fears of attacks in Israeli cities.
"From the moment fighting started in the south, we realised such an incident of a lone attacker can happen and such tractor attacks are familiar in Jerusalem," Aharonovitch said on Channel 2 television.
"(The driver's) whole family is being interrogated. We want to know who sent him, if he was acting alone, whether he belonged to a network – all those things are being checked," he said.
In two incidents in July 2008, construction vehicles driven by Palestinians hit Israeli buses and pedestrians, killing a total of three people. In both incidents, the attackers were shot dead.
Three years later, an Arab truck driver drove into cars and pedestrians in Tel Aviv, killing one person, in what police said was a deliberate attack. The driver was apprehended and sentenced to life imprisonment.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Giles Elgood)