A Palestinian man commandeered a construction vehicle Thursday on a major road and swung a police car into the air, smashing it against a bus before bystanders opened fire on him and police shot him dead.

The incident, the third of its kind in the past year, came a day after the latest U.S. visit to push Israel's hawkish future leaders into another try at Mideast peacemaking.

The two officers inside the police car escaped with slight injuries, police said. The bus, which was parked at an intersection, was empty.

Video footage from a traffic surveillance camera showed a front-end loader scoop up the car with its shovel, hurl it into the air and slam it against the bus. Police and bystanders opened fire at the driver, and the vehicle crashed to a stop against an electricity pole.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld identified the driver as Mar'i al-Rdaidah, a 26-year-old from east Jerusalem. It wasn't clear whether the man was affiliated with a militant group, Rosenfeld said.

"It is without a doubt a terror attack," Jerusalem's deputy police chief, Nisso Shachar, told reporters.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev called the rampage a "senseless act of violence against innocent civilians."

Shachar said an open copy of the Quran, Islam's holy book, was found inside the front-end loader. The book's presence could indicate the attacker was influenced by Islamic radicals, though many Muslims routinely carry the Quran.

Al-Rdaidah's mother told Channel 10 TV her son was a "respectable and devout person."

"He went to the mosque all the time and left home only to work," she said. Her name was not given.

The rampage came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ended her first Mideast visit in the job, and days before Israel celebrates Purim, a holiday in which schools are closed, children dress up in costumes and families visit parties and public events.

Barkat said the attack would not stop next week's celebrations, and he urged the government to demolish al-Rdaidah's home. Israel suspended such demolitions years ago, after it drew international criticism.

"We need to make sure that deterrence is as strong as possible," Barkat said.

Al-Rdaidah charged at the police car at an intersection off Begin Highway, a main artery traversing the city from north to south.

"We stopped at a red light and saw in the opposing lane on the left a tractor ramming into a police car with two officers inside and overturning it," another officer, Eldad Ben Nun, told Channel 2 TV. "We stopped the car, I ran over to the tractor and pulled out my gun, fired a few bullets at him (the driver) until he slumped over."

The driver sat up again, and another officer shot him three more time with an M-16 assault rifle "and the incident was over," he said.

Two taxi drivers also said they opened fire.

It was the third time in months that a Palestinian man from east Jerusalem has turned a construction vehicle into a weapon on Jerusalem's streets. Palestinians in east Jerusalem are not Israeli citizens but carry Israeli ID cards that allow them freedom of movement throughout the country.

In early July, three people were killed and dozens were wounded when an attacker plowed into cars and a bus. Three weeks later, another attacker rammed a bus, overturned a car and wounded five people.

In September, a third driver plowed his car into a crowd of Israeli soldiers, wounding 19.

All of the attackers were shot dead by bystanders.

In the Gaza Strip, the ruling Hamas militant group praised the latest attack. "We bless this operation today in Jerusalem," said spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. "The Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves, and we emphasize we will defend our homeland."

New fighting also surged Thursday in Gaza, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Jerusalem.

Two Islamic Jihad militants were killed and a third was wounded in an Israeli airstrike. Militants then fired 10 rockets and mortar shells at Israel, and Israeli aircraft struck five times against suspected weapons-smuggling tunnels in southern Gaza.

Gaza health official Dr. Moaiya Hassanain said two bodies were removed from a tunnel in the area, but it was not clear whether that tunnel was targeted Thursday.

There has been sporadic violence since Israel ended a fierce three-week offensive in Gaza on Jan. 18. Egypt has been trying to broker a long-term truce.

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