By Nir Elias
TEL AVIV (Reuters) - A Palestinian stabbed and wounded seven people on a Tel Aviv commuter bus and in the street in a morning rush-hour attack on Wednesday before he was shot by a security officer as he fled, Israeli officials said.
It was the first Palestinian attack reported in the Israeli commercial capital since a soldier was stabbed to death two months ago during a surge of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Passengers on the number 40 bus en route to Tel Aviv University said the assailant, identified by police as a Palestinian from Tulkarm in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, stabbed the driver and then others at the Maariv junction, one of the coastal city's busiest.
"The terrorist had murder in his eyes," a passenger identified only as Orly said on Israel Radio.
The attacker exited the bus after it slowed to a stop and ran down a street along with panicked passengers and pedestrians. Security camera footage showed him stabbing one woman in the back on the sidewalk, and she collapsed.
Armed prison officers who happened by in another vehicle gave chase and one shot the man in the leg. News photos showed the alleged assailant, whom police said was aged 23, lying face down in the mud, his wrists handcuffed behind him and his jeans stained with blood.
The national ambulance service said seven people were wounded in the stabbing, four seriously.It was not immediately clear if the suspected attacker, who was taken to hospital for treatment, was affiliated with any Palestinian militant group. Israeli security officials said he cited Israel's Gaza offensive last summer as one of the reasons he decided to strike.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attack "a direct result of venomous incitement disseminated in the Palestinian Authority against Jews and their country."
There was no immediate comment from the Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank and has stepped up unilateral moves towards Palestinian statehood since peace talks with Israel collapsed in April. The militant Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, praised the attack.
Netanyahu has made security a central theme of his campaign for re-election in March. In November, two Palestinians killed four rabbis and a policeman at a Jerusalem synagogue. Five Israelis and a foreign visitor died in Palestinian attacks before that incident. At least 12 Palestinians have also been killed, including some of the attackers.
(Reporting by Ori Lewis, Maayan Lubell, Dan Williams and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Mark Heinrich)