The driver of a bus that came under fire in the central West Bank on Saturday night, who won praise for his quick response, said on Sunday he had never encountered such a situation before.
“While en route to [the settlement of] Ariel I heard gunshots,” the unknown driver told the Ynet news site. “I stepped on it and got away from there. It’s a dark area and there are no soldiers stationed there, so my goal was to get as far away from there as possible.”
The shots were fired from the Palestinian town of Silwad at the Egged Ta’avura bus, the IDF said later. The bus was traveling along Route 60, the West Bank’s main north-south highway, near the Ofra settlement.
It was full of passengers at the time of the attack and at least eight bullet holes were found on the bus’s windows and body, according to the Binyamin Regional Council.
“Only close to Shiloh I got off the bus and saw the damage,” the driver said, adding that it wasn’t his usual route. “I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said.
“I haven’t slept all night. I’m still shaking,” he added.
No one was injured in the attack.
ירי על אוטובוס ליד עופרה למזלנו ללא נפגעים,
יש אינתיפאדה וכולם ישנים,
צריך לטפל במחבלים כאילו היו נפגעים בפיגוע, pic.twitter.com/JijEd2mV7c
— הרצל חג’אג’ (@herzelhajaj) August 20, 2022
“We heard a few loud ‘booms.’ At first, I thought something fell on the bus,” Yuval Hadad, a passenger, told Ynet.
“But when I saw other passengers taking cover I assumed it was rock throwing. We called the police… When we got off at Shilo we saw that the bus was full of holes,” she said.
“We’ll move on — this is our country — but obviously it’s a bit stressful. We have kids… It’s people’s lives we’re talking about,” Hadad added.
Medics were dispatched to the junction but ultimately were not called on to treat anyone. The military, meanwhile, launched a manhunt for the shooter or shooters.
Tamar Ohana from the Israeli trade union Koach LaOvdim—Democratic Workers’ Organization praised the driver’s actions, which, she said, prevented a disaster.
“It’s only thanks to the driver’s resourcefulness that a great tragedy was avoided,” Ohana said.
“We support the drivers who are out there on the front lines every day dealing with stone-throwing terrorism on the one hand and passenger violence on the other. This is a daily reminder of the necessity of acknowledging drivers as public servants and that is what we’ll keep fighting for,” she added.
Binyamin Regional Council chairman Yisrael Gantz said the shooting was part of an ongoing escalation by Palestinian gunmen and demonstrated a “loss of deterrence” on the part of Israeli authorities.
“We demand immediate, decisive, and deep actions to eradicate terrorism and restore deterrence on the ground,” he added.
The incident came amid heightened tensions in the West Bank, with Israeli security forces stepping up arrest raids and operations following a deadly wave of terror attacks against Israelis that left 19 people dead earlier this year.
Earlier Saturday, three Palestinian women from Nablus with a makeshift submachine gun in their car were arrested near a checkpoint in the West Bank.
On Friday, an unarmed 58-year-old Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli troops during an IDF raid in the northern West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said.
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.