By Israel Hayom—
A truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin on Monday evening, killing 12 people and injuring 50 others in what Germany’s interior minister said looked like a terrorist attack. Local media reported Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, but security sources said those claims were still being investigated.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed Tuesday that an Israeli tourist in his 60s was seriously injured in the attack. His wife, also in her 60s, had yet to be located, and her condition is unknown at this time. Ministry official Alon Weiss said the man had undergone surgery and is in stable condition.
Rabbi Yehuda Tiechtel, Chabad center director in Berlin, is said to be in contact with the family.
The incident took place at Breitscheidplatz, a square just outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at around 8 p.m., as tourists and locals were enjoying a traditional pre-Christmas evening out near Berlin’s Zoo station.
Authorities said Tuesday that the driver who rammed a truck into the crowded Christmas market did so intentionally.
“Our investigators are working on the assumption that the truck was intentionally driven into the crowd at the Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz,” Berlin Police said on Twitter. “All police measures concerning the suspected terrorist attack at Breitscheidplatz are being taken with great speed and the necessary care,” they said.
Police said they had taken one suspect into custody and that a passenger from the truck had died as it crashed into the crowd. Ariel Zurawski, whose Polish freight company owns the truck, said the driver of the truck did not work for him.
German media cited local security sources as saying that there was evidence suggesting the arrested suspect was from Afghanistan or Pakistan and entered Germany in February as a refugee.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the circumstances of the crash were still unclear, adding: “I don’t want to use the word ‘attack’ yet, although a lot points to that.”
The incident evoked memories of an attack in Nice, France in July when a Tunisian-born man drove a 19-ton truck along the beach front, mowing down people who had gathered to watch the fireworks on Bastille Day, killing 86 people. That attack was claimed by Islamic State.
German President Joachim Gauck said in a statement that it was an “awful evening for Berlin and for our country.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel “mourns the dead and hope that the many people injured can be helped,” her spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted.
Later Tuesday, Merkel said she believed the incident was a terrorist attack, adding it would be hard to bear if it turned out that a migrant had been the perpetrator.
“There is much we still do not know with sufficient certainty but we must, as things stand now, assume it was a terrorist attack,” Merkel told reporters. “I know it would be especially hard for us all to bear if it were confirmed that (the) person who committed this act was someone who sought protection and asylum,” she added. She promised that every detail would be cleared up and the perpetrator would be punished with the full force of the law.”
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said, “We are in mourning. Our thoughts are with the victims in Berlin and their relatives.”
“I’m deeply shaken about the horrible news of what occurred at the memorial church in Berlin,” Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump condemned what he called a “horrifying terror attack” and said “Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians.”
The White House condemned what it called “what appears to have been a terrorist attack.”
White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price issued a statement saying, ”The United States condemns in the strongest terms what appears to have been a terrorist attack on a Christmas Market in Berlin, Germany, which has killed and wounded dozens. We send our thoughts and prayers to the families and loved ones of those killed, just as we wish a speedy recovery to all of those wounded. We also extend our heartfelt condolences to the people and Government of Germany. We have been in touch with German officials, and we stand ready to provide assistance as they recover from and investigate this horrific incident. Germany is one of our closest partners and strongest allies, and we stand together with Berlin in the fight against all those who target our way of life and threaten our societies.”
French President Francois Hollande said the French people “share in the mourning of the Germans in the face of this tragedy that has hit all of Europe.”
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci tweeted that he was “shocked over the Berlin attack” and hoped that German citizens knew “we are all with them tonight, praying for families of victims.”