A pool of fresh blood glimmered under the powerful sun next to the corpse of an Arab terrorist, whose bare feet and ankles lay exposed under a small black plastic tarp covering the remainder of his lifeless body, near the Old City’s Damascus Gate.
Zaka team carries the dead bodies of Palestinian terrorists, who were shot dead by Israeli police after carrying out shooting and stabbing attack outside Damascus gate to Jerusalem’s Old City, February 3, 2016. . (photo credit:REUTERS)
The corpses of his two accomplices were roughly 30 meters up the street, surrounded by police and a forensics team wearing rubber gloves and plastic bags around their shoes to carefully examine their clothing, and collect evidence.
Moments later, hundreds of already rattled civilians – men, women, small children – standing behind police lines, reflexively ducked and covered their heads following a deafening explosion.
Bomb disposal experts had just safely detonated one of the two pipe bombs intended to kill as many people in the area as possible.
But the bombs malfunctioned.
Instead, the terrorists used a gun and knives to stab and shoot two responding female officers who tried to stop them. The young women were rushed to a nearby hospital in critical condition minutes earlier. One of the wounded officers, Corporal Hadar Cohen, died of her wounds hours later. She was 19 years old.
ZAKA emergency response workers used paper towels to absorb both women’s blood from the sidewalk in case they died, as is customary for a traditional Jewish burial following a terrorist attack.
As they carried out this morbid task, the tension was palpable as police continued to search for more possible explosives, and accomplices.
Cameramen and several reporters from around the world attempted to capture the chaos and breach the cordoned-off scene to get close-ups of the bloodshed. However, more than 100 police officers from multiple units worked feverishly together to keep the reporters and onlookers at bay. To maintain order.
As the officers attempted to do this, a small group of enraged young Palestinian men across the street began shouting threats, nearly sparking a riot.
Two officers mounted on horseback and a team of heavily armed guards rushed across the street to disperse the mob. The Palestinians shoved and threw punches at the police, as women and children screamed. A large rock thrown nearby nearly struck myself and other noncombatants.
As a helicopter hovered above, the officers aggressively dispersed the angry young men without injuring any of them. The powerful, towering black horses were particularly effective in pushing them back.
After order was restored, the officers returned to the site of the attack to resume helping.
There, dozens of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students interspersed with Arabs stood a safe distance away to take in the spectacle, as police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld held impromptu press conferences in Hebrew and English to explain to the world what just happened.
The three terrorists were armed with bombs, machine guns and knives, he said. When the two female officers stationed in the area attempted to stop them, they were stabbed and shot in the neck and head.
The terrorists were shot and killed. Heightened security would remain in effect throughout the capital, he said.
Meanwhile, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who examined the crime scene with other security personnel, held a press conference of his own moments later. He commended the officers who stopped the attack, and vowed that the terrorists would not prevail.
“Hand-to-hand combat took place, where unfortunately two of the security officers of Jerusalem were shot and knifed,” he said. “However, their very swift response neutralized the threat and the three terrorists were killed.”
“What we need now,” Barkat continued, “is high alert, well-spread security forces, a will to engage to end it swiftly, and to move on with our lives.”