Friday, March 06, 2009

Bulldozer Rampages

Three incidents in eight months have involved a Palestinian construction worker using a heavy construction vehicle to go on a "rampage-style" attack in Israel. All three mirror the infamous Killdozer incident that occurred in Colorado in 2004.

Two of the Israeli incidents occurred in July of 2008.

On July 2, 2008, a Palestinian construction worker, Hussam Taysir Duwait, used a Caterpillar 966 front-end loader (incorrectly called a "bulldozer" in early media reports) in a deadly rampage in central Jerusalem on Jaffa Street. He used the construction vehicle to crush several cars and ram into buses and pedestrians, killing three people and injuring 45, before he was shot and killed by Israeli police.

The identity of the man who shot the driver is an intriguing detail of the incident. At the point when the vehicle had stopped for the first time, three men had climbed up to the cabin: A 20-year old off-duty soldier from Jerusalem who had recently enlisted as an elite Israel Defense Forces commando and whose name has been published as "Moshe Plesser," armed civilian Oron Ben Shimon, who is a regional manager of a security firm, as well as an unnamed policeman.

According to Oron, while he was struggling with the driver inside the cabin, he shouted at the soldier to shoot the driver. The soldier then grabbed Oron's handgun and killed Duwait with three shots to the head at point blank range. The soldier was quoted as saying that "I got closer to the bulldozer, the whole time looking for my weapon to shoot him." Coincidentally, the soldier is the brother-in-law of Captain David Shapira, the paratrooper officer who shot and killed the perpetrator in the Mercaz HaRav massacre.

Three weeks later, on Tuesday, July 22, 2008, another east Jerusalem Arab resident, Ghassan Abu Tir, drove an earth-moving machine into a number of cars in downtown Jerusalem, before he was shot and killed. That attack, which left some 16 people injured, took place in Jerusalem’s upscale hotel district, close to the King David Hotel, where Senator Barack Obama, the then-presumptive Democratic nominee for president, was to stay on Tuesday evening.

The July 22 attack occurred near the Israeli presidential residence, where President Shimon Peres was having lunch with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. It was the first visit by a Palestinian leader to the residence.

The driver, Ghassan Abu Tir, a Jerusalem resident in his early 20s, came from Umm Tuba, an Arab village in the southeast area of the city with a strong Hamas presence.

Now it has happened again.

On Thursday, March 5, 2009, a Palestinian driver was shot dead in Jerusalem after slamming his tractor into a police car and a bus. The killing happened as tensions flare over Israel's planned demolition of Arab homes in East Jerusalem and a spate of new violence in Gaza.

It was a scene of chaos on Jerusalem's busy Menachim Begin Highway in the moments after police said the Palestinian driver of a large construction vehicle smashed the front-end loader into a police car and a bus.

An Israeli cab driver told Israel Radio he pulled a gun and opened fire on the Palestinian.

He said he saw a terrorist act, and saw the police car fly into the air. He said he got out of his car with his gun. He said he fired four shots and killed the man. Then, he said, a policeman came and "finished the man off."

Police and hospital officials said the man died from his wounds. The officers inside the car sustained minor injuries.

Police said they found a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, open in the vehicle - something Israeli authorities in the past have associated with attacks by Muslim extremists.

No one has claimed responsibility for the crash.

Officials are probing the circumstances surrounding the incident, but Israeli authorities quickly labeled it an act of terrorism.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat went on television shortly after and called it "an attack to murder innocent people."

Tensions remain high due to Israel's plans to demolish scores of Arab homes built without permits in East Jerusalem to make way for an archeological zone.

Copycats of the Thursday incident could happen.

After the two attacks of last July, it is to be noted, in September 2008, a Palestinian was shot and killed after he drove his car into a group of Israeli soldiers near Jerusalem's Old City.

The BMW terror attack of September 22, 2008, in which a resident of East Jerusalem drove a black BMW into a group of off-duty soldiers standing on a Jerusalem street injuring 19, was an apparent copycat attack, said The New York Times reporter Isabel Kershner.

Similar "rampages" have occurred outside of Israel, including two relatively infamous cases.

A M60A3 TTS tank was involved in a police chase, when one was stolen by Shawn Nelson, 35, an unemployed plumber, from an Army National Guard armory and taken on a rampage through San Diego, California. The M60 Patton tank was taken on its rampage on May 17, 1995, destroying cars, fire hydrants, and an RV. Nelson was killed by police when he refused to surrender after the tank got stuck on concrete freeway dividers. News footage of the 23-minute, televised chase through the streets of the Clairemont neighborhood in San Diego, has been shown numerous times on "World's Wildest Police Videos" and other such programs.

Finally, there is the so-called "Killdozer" event.

Marvin John Heemeyer (October 28, 1951 – June 4, 2004) was an American welder and owner of an automobile muffler repair shop. On June 4, 2004, frustrated over the adverse outcome of a zoning dispute, Heemeyer used a Komatsu D355A bulldozer armored with layers of steel and concrete to demolish the town hall, a former judge's home and other buildings in Granby, Colorado. The rampage ended when the bulldozer became immobilized. After a standoff with law enforcement agencies, Heemeyer died when he used his .357-caliber handgun to kill himself.

The Killdozer, as it was called in news reports, had been fitted with makeshift armor plating covering the cabin, engine and parts of the tracks. For visibility, the bulldozer was fitted with several video cameras linked to two monitors mounted on the vehicle's dashboard. The cameras were protected on the outside by 3-inch shields of bulletresistant plastic. Onboard fans and an air conditioner were used to keep Heemeyer cool while driving and compressed air nozzles were fitted to blow dust away from the video cameras. Food, water and life support were present in the almost airtight cabin. In places, the vehicle's armor was over one foot thick, consisting of concrete sandwiched between sheets of steel to make ad-hoc composite armor. This made the machine impervious to small arms fire and resistant to explosives; three external explosions and over 200 rounds of firearm ammunition fired at the bulldozer had no effect on it.


cryptidsrus said...

Heemeyer may have been deranged, but you can't argue he was not "inventive." Good story, Loren. Wonder if the "flap" will go on???

starviego said...

Heemeyer was being squeezed by local politicos and beaurocrats. He was careful not to damage the property of people not on his target list. I think he was more pissed than deranged.

Anonymous said...

There was also the attack by Mohammed Reza Taheri, where he drove a jeep into a crowd of people, injuring nine. It happened at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill