Two police officers who survived a tractor attack in Jerusalem on Thursday still find it hard to believe they escaped with nothing more than mild injuries.
"The only explanation I can think of is that someone must have been watching over us from above," said Sergeant Hila Shmuel, after watching a video of the attack.
Midday Thursday saw Mir'i Radeideh
, 26, of the Beit Hanina neighborhood in east Jerusalem, drive a bulldozer into a police cruiser on the capital's Menachem Begin Boulevard. He reportedly also tried hitting a nearby bus, but missed.
According to the police report, Radeideh attempted to crush the car, dragged it and flipped it over, eventually pinning it against a bus. Two other police officers who arrived at the scene shot him. He suffered critical injuries and later died in the hospital.
"We were sent in to deal with a routine traffic incident," said Staff-Sergeant Major Camal Zahaika. When we were finished, he added, "we got into the car and then I felt a strong thump. I saw a tractor and understood immediately that this was a terror attack… we were flipped over to the left and the tractor kept pushing us."
Crushed, dragged, flipped. The police cruiser (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"We couldn’t get the doors to open – we were pinned in. At some point the cruiser was upright again. I cocked my gun and then I saw that there were three or four shooters around the tractor. It was about 20 meters (22 yards) away. I got hit in the chest and it was hard to breath, and then we were taken to the hospital," he said.
"We're always briefed on terror alerts, but is still catches you a little off guard and you don't know what to do," he added. "When I heard the shots it was like everything came to a stop. Everything went silent and I realized it wasn’t the terrorist (shooting)."
Sergeant Shmuel, a mere week on the force, said that at first she thought a car had accidentally crashed into the police cruiser.
"I felt something hit us from the back, but I couldn’t see anything. Then I heard the tractor's noise… You feel it dragging you and you think that somehow you're in this crazy action film.
"I was sure we were going to be slammed into the bus and that it was all going to end very badly. My life just flashed before my eyes. I didn’t think anyone could save us. We're both grateful to the other police officers and the taxi driver who were there."