Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rarely condemned the terrorist attack that killed five Israelis in Bnei Brak on Tuesday night as dozens of Palestinians rallied in his West Bank hometown in support of the gunman.
“[The president] expressed its condemnation of the killing of Israeli civilians tonight and stressed that the killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians only leads to a worsening of the situation,” Abbas’ office said in a statement.
Eleven Israelis have died in deadly attacks by Arab Israelis and Palestinians across the country over the past week. While Ramallah’s rivals – including Hamas and Islamic Jihad – celebrated the killings, Abbas remained silent until Tuesday’s attack.
On Tuesday evening, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on Israelis in Bnei Brak, east of Tel Aviv. Five Israelis were killed, including a police officer who died from injuries sustained in a firefight that killed the terrorist.
The gunman was identified as Diaa Hamarsheh, a 26-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Ya’abad, near Jenin, who was in Israel illegally. Hamarsheh was sentenced to one and a half years in prison in Israel in 2013 for security crimes. Police also arrested a number of suspected accomplices.
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Ramallah had not publicly discussed the escalating wave of terror against Israelis and remained silent during the deadly attacks in Beersheba last Tuesday and Hadera on Sunday. Polls regularly show that large sections of the Palestinian public consider the “armed struggle” against Israel to be legitimate.
Israeli police officers and medics are seen at the scene of a shooting in Bnei Brak on March 29, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
“The cycle of violence confirms that a comprehensive, just and stable peace is the shortest and right path to security and stability for both peoples,” Abbas said.
Abbas noted that the holy month of Ramadan was approaching, as well as the Jewish and Christian holidays. Officials and analysts have been warning for months that the coincidence of major holidays for all three faiths could spark violence in the coming weeks.
“We all strive for stability,” Abbas said.
Pro-Hamas news sites circulated videos of alleged Ya’abad residents gathering outside Hamarsheh’s home to show their solidarity with the dead terrorist.
“Millions of martyrs are marching on Jerusalem!” According to the footage, the townspeople chanted.
Palestinian terrorist groups praised the deadly killing spree, although none claimed responsibility for the massacre.
“The Tel Aviv operation underscores the unity of the Palestinian people wherever they live,” Hamas official Mushir al-Masri told Al-Aqsa TV, a channel affiliated with the terror group.
The attack came as Israeli security forces were already on high alert as Ramadan drew near.
The situation escalated after two attacks last week by Arab-Israeli terrorists killed six people. Both of these attacks were perpetrated by Israeli Arab citizens and appear to have been inspired by the ultra-fundamentalist terrorist organization Islamic State rather than Hamas or any other Palestinian group.
— قناة الجزيرة (@AJArabic) March 29, 2022
On Sunday, two police officers were killed by two terrorists who were shot dead in a shootout in Hadera. Five days earlier, an Arab-Israeli terrorist killed four people at a mall in the southern city of Beersheba. The terrorist, who had previously been convicted of attempting to join the Islamic State, was shot dead by passers-by.
PA leader Abbas also warned that the “reprehensible incident” could trigger revenge attacks by Israelis on Palestinians. Recent terrorist attacks against Israelis have been followed by alleged hate crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank.
Last week, Palestinians living in Jama’in, near Nablus, woke up to find that someone had tried to burn down a mosque in their city overnight. A slogan reading “Jews will not remain silent when we are murdered” was painted on a nearby wall, along with a Star of David, images from the crime scene show.
Islamist Ra’am Party leader MK Mansour Abbas speaks during a plenary session at the Assembly Hall of the Knesset in Jerusalem January 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prominent Arab-Israeli politicians also condemned Tuesday’s attack in Bnei Brak, including both Joint List leader Ayman Odeh and Ra’am Party leader Mansour Abbas. The latter, whose party is a member of the ruling coalition, called the shooting “a despicable, heinous crime of terrorism against innocent civilians”.
“We won’t stop condemning just because terror doesn’t stop and doesn’t lower its head. We are determined to follow a peaceful path despite all the extremists,” said Mansour Abbas.
Israeli police and rescue workers at the scene of a shooting attack in Bnei Brak on March 29, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Odeh also condemned the attacks. But he compared the Israelis killed in Bnei Brak to Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli forces.
“Five civilians were killed today – each a world apart. They join the 51 Palestinians who have been killed since the beginning of the year – each in their own world,” says Odeh.
“It is time to end the source of hate, the damn occupation, and establish peace that will bring security and normal life to both peoples,” Odeh added.
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