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Israeli attack linked to those in Europe

dpa logodpa 8/01/2017 Miranda Lee-Murray

Four family members of an alleged Islamic State sympathiser who drove a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers, killing four, have been arrested.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has connected a deadly truck ramming in East Jerusalem that left four soldiers dead with similar attacks last year in Europe.

"This is part of the same pattern inspired by Islamic State, that we saw first in France, then in Germany and now in Jerusalem," he said.

Three women and one man, all in their 20s, were killed in what police described as a "terrorist attack."

In addition, at least 15 people were injured, several critically, according to local hospitals.

The deaths and injuries occurred after a truck swerved into a group of soldiers getting off a bus in East Jerusalem, according to police.

Netanyahu said the man believed to have been the driver in Sunday's attack, later identified by police as 28-year-old Fadi al-Qanbar, was an "Islamic State supporter."

The attacker was shot and killed by people at the scene.

Israeli security teams closed down Jabel Mukaber, the Palestinian neighbourhood the attacker was from, Netanyahu said.

According to police, nine people were arrested in East Jerusalem in connection with the attack, five of whom were family members of the attacker.

Netanyahu and Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited the scene under heavy guard ahead of a special Security Cabinet meeting.

The Security Cabinet decided on a series of measures, including allowing Islamic State sympathisers to be put under administrative detention, the Times of Israel reported.

The cabinet also decided not to release the attacker's body and to demolish his home as soon as possible, it reported.

According to the Times of Israel, the soldiers were in Jerusalem as part of a military initiative bringing troops to see sites of historical and national importance.

Police sealed off the area for investigation as ambulances transported the wounded to hospitals.

Emergency services had to free several people who were trapped under the truck, according to local media.

An emergency services worker told Israeli television that it was "the worst attack with a vehicle that we've recently seen in Jerusalem."

Lea Schrieber, a tour guide who witnessed the attack, told The Israel Project organisation she heard shouts and saw the truck go into reverse and hit the group of soldiers a second time.

The Hamas movement praised the attack, calling it proof that the Palestinian uprising was not dead, but did not take credit for it.

The US State Department issued a statement condemning the "brutal" and "horrific" attack, and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also strongly denounced the attacks.

"There can be no justification for such a crime: the EU will continue to work with those who seek peace and denounce those who pursue violence and terror," she said, according to a statement.

US spokesman Ned Price also condemned the attack "in the strongest terms."

"Such cowardly acts can never be justified, and we call on all to send a clear and unequivocal message that terrorism must never be tolerated," Price said.

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