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Tensions Rise In Jerusalem After Second Attack


Israeli police say that a driver wounded three Israeli soldiers in a suspected attack today in the West Bank. Police say a Palestinian man there rammed a vehicle into pedestrians in two locations about a block away from each other. One pedestrian was killed and a dozen more wounded. Israeli police shot and killed the driver. That was the second such deadly incident in as many weeks.

NPR's Emily Harris reports that in Jerusalem, tensions have been rising for weeks over the combustible issue of access to the hilltop site that's holy to both sides.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: At the big Jerusalem intersection that was the scene of one of the attacks, ultraorthodox Jewish men in black hats and coats packed the sidewalks behind police barricades. Joseph Fisher attends a religious school nearby.

JOSEPH FISHER: There was shooting and police and ambulances, everyone just came running out.

HARRIS: He said it was scary and crazy.

FISHER: You just can't trust any guy that drives a car now. They just crash into people and it's insane.

HARRIS: Another young man, Yossi Tsvi, working in the diamond trade, said he was not afraid.

YOSSI TSVI: Scared? I no scared. The Arab must be scared, no Jewish. This is my country.

HARRIS: The current tensions and violence in Jerusalem seem to be closely tied to a conflict over access to the place here sacred to both sides. Jews call it the Temple Mount - Muslims the Holy Sanctuary. It's the expansive hilltop where ancient Jewish temples once stood and from where the Muslim prophet Muhammad is said to have briefly ascended to heaven. There were clashes there early this morning, hours before the driver's attack. Palestinian Nadr Kos was involved.

NADR KOS: (Speaking Arabic).

HARRIS: He says Israeli police had arrived to escort scores of Jewish visitors - as is usual. Kos said Palestinians defended the area - throwing rocks. A police spokesman says officers used stun grenades and locked a group of young Palestinian men inside the mosque so the visit could continue. Kos believes the vehicle attack on pedestrians later today was connected.

KOS: (Through translator) The man who did it must have heard about what happened today the Holy Sanctuary - the attacks that happened this morning. The constant Israeli aggressions, the continued settlement building, all this is enough reason for someone like this man to react in such a way.

HARRIS: Israeli media identified the man who drove into pedestrians as in his 30s, a father of five. But the militant group Hamas claimed responsibility. Israeli and Palestinian officials blamed each other's governments for stoking tensions in Jerusalem. Secretary of State John Kerr, who is hoping to restart peace talks here, called today's attack an act of terror that only makes things worse. Just a couple of hours after today's attack, light rail service was back up and running at the place the driver in today's attack was shot and killed. City workers had mopped the concrete there, leaving just a sheen of soapy bubbles behind. Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

International Correspondent Emily Harris is based in Jerusalem as part of NPR's Mideast team. Her post covers news related to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She began this role in March of 2013.