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Tue 22 Jul 2008 04:16 PM

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16 injured in copycat bulldozer attack

Palestinian bulldozer driver shot dead in Jerusalem after rampage, second such attack this month.

A Palestinian bulldozer driver was shot dead in Jerusalem on Tuesday after injuring at least 16 people as he rammed cars in the second such attack this month, Israeli police and medics said.

Jerusalem police chief Aharon Franco said "the terrorist was neutralised very quickly" and police were working to reopen the street near the landmark King David Hotel in central Jerusalem to traffic.

On July 2, a Palestinian killed three people and wounded 30 others when he rammed a bulldozer into a bus and cars on a busy Jerusalem street before being shot dead.

Franco said said Tuesday's assailant attacked a bus, failing to overturn it, but smashing its windows.

"The bulldozer then rammed five cars and damaged them. A civilian tried to stop him when a border guard arrived and neutralised him," he said.

In the July 2 incident, the attacker managed to flip a bus, decapitating its driver in the process.

Tuesday's incident took place near the King David Hotel, where British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stayed during a visit to Jerusalem earlier this week.

It also came a day before US presidential candidate Barack Obama is due in town to hold a round of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials on the latest leg of a tour of the Middle East and Europe.

Kenny Leiner, 67, a New Yorker living in Jerusalem, said he was eating at a restaurant when "we heard a boom and the waiter alerted us that it was a terrorist attack".

"I started to run after the truck. I thought maybe I could do something. I saw the driver going boom in a car, boom in a second car. Then the police started to shoot at him. I feel horrible," he said.

Israeli Yohanan Levine, 16, said: "I was going home when I saw the tractor going into a bus four or five times. All the windows of the bus exploded.

"Then I saw the tractor going down the street pushing cars. At this moment I [the driver] in the eye and I saw more people running, and after two minutes I heard two or three gunshots."

Commenting on the Obama visit, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said "we heightened the security immediately after the attack and we will heighten... until after Obama's visit".

Tuesday's attacker was named as Ghassan Abu Tir, 22, from Umm Tuba, a district of occupied east Jerusalem.

In the July 2 incident, the perpetrator was a 30-year-old east Jerusalem man who worked for an Israeli company at a nearby construction site.

In that case, all indications were that what Israel called a terrorist attack was a spontaneous incident carried out by a father of two with a criminal past but no known links to armed groups.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman, Mark Regev, said: "This was another attempt to murder innocent people in a senseless act of terror."

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski said Israel should "reconsider the way in which we employ Arabs on construction sites".

At least 525 people have been killed since peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians resumed in November after a seven-year hiatus, mostly militants in the besieged Gaza Strip, according to a count by newswire AFP.

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