Driver aimed to kill, says Israeli official

JERUSALEM — One day after a car driven by an Arab American plowed into a group of people waiting at a bus stop, killing one and injuring 23, Internal Security Minister Moshe Shahal said the driver acted with intent to kill.

Shahal's announcement Tuesday reversed the local police's initial assessment that Ahmed Abdel Hamidah had lost control of the rented black Fiat Uno and that the incident was an accident.

The radical Hamas group took responsibility for the car attack, saying it was in revenge for the assassination in Malta last year of Hamas leader Fathi Shqaqi. Police had found a paper with the words "Islamic Jihad" in Hamidah's car.

The woman killed in the attack, Flora Yehiel-Twito, 24, was buried in Kiryat Ata Tuesday.

The attack Monday came amid the tense atmosphere generated by Sunday's suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Ashkelon, in which 27 people, including the attackers, reportedly also Hamas members, were killed.

Pedestrians were waiting at the bus stop at a busy intersection near Jerusalem's French Hill neighborhood when Hamidah's car, traveling at a high speed, crashed into the shelter. Two civilian bystanders shot and killed Hamidah after the crash.

Shahal said a background check found that Hamidah, a former drug addict, had recently become a devout Muslim

Jerusalem Police Chief Arye Amit told reporters, "Most of the signs rule out a traffic accident. The car and brakes were in working order. One of the skid marks we saw yesterday apparently did not come from this car."

Police initially believed that skid marks at the scene showed Hamideh tried to brake and did not intend to hit his victims. But Amit said some of the skid marks found were made when the car accelerated toward the people on the pavement.

The Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported Tuesday that Hamidah told friends that morning that they would see him on television that night. Acquaintances were quoted as saying they did not give his statements any thought.

According to the New York Times, Hamidah was divorced and owned a supermarket with his brother in the Los Angeles area, but since July had been staying with relatives in a village outside Ramallah north of French Hill.