Ephrem Haile, 29, was jailed for three years after a court heard he subjected the vulnerable pensioner to a ten-minute ordeal.
-> Police warning after Yorkshire man receives call from wife's phone number about 'horrible car accident'Haile targeted the woman on Beckett Street, Leeds, near to St James's Hospital on March 11 this year at 7.15pm.
He grabbed the woman from behind and took hold of her handbag but she refused to let go of it.
The struggle continued as she held onto the bag and shouted for help.
Mehran Nassiri, prosecuting, said some passers-by refused to help as they were too afraid of Haile.
The victim was pushed into the road during the attack.
A car stopped and a man and a woman got out to challenge Haile.
-> Also in court: Six jailed for more than 32 years over Leeds dial-a-dealer drugs supply conspiracyPolice were contacted and two police community support officers arrived at the scene to help detain him.
The pensioner was knocked to the ground during the incident but did not suffer any injuries.
Haile, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to attempted robbery.
The court heard he was drunk at the time of the offence.
Haile, an Ethiopian national, has previous convictions for theft and possession of a knife.
Amanda Johnson, mitigating, said Haile had moved to Leeds from Liverpool at the time of the offence.
He was trying to find somewhere to live in the city but was unable to claim benefits.
-> Would-be robber threatened to stab victim with HIV infected needle outside supermarket in LeedsJailing Haile, judge Geoffrey Marson, QC, said: "Some passers-by were too frightened to intervene.
"But fortunately two others stopped and caught you.
"It was only because your victim refuse