UMM Al-FAHM —The Arab-Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm is on edge. Residents are hesitant to talk about the attack on Friday, in which three locals, cousins from the Jabarin clan, carried out a shooting attack in the Old City of Jerusalem, killing two Israeli policemen.
Members of the Jabarin family are mostly concentrated into one neighborhood. Journalists on Saturday were not welcome there. One cousin of the attackers who agreed to an interview was threatened and then quickly shooed away by family members.
On the advice of their lawyers, members of the family said they would not speak to the press until the bodies of the attackers have been returned.
Israeli police usually hold onto the bodies of terrorists until the families agree to hold small funerals. In the past, burials of attackers have become launching pads for more violence.
Locals in the area are aware that Israeli police have taken down the traditional mourning tent for the attackers. The families, they said, are accepting people into their homes rather than in tents.
“I’m against the violence. They made a big mess for Umm al-Fahm,” said 20-year-old Sa’id Muhammad, a worker in one of the local malls.
When asked if he thought there was support in his town for the attack, he said he thought there might be some, but he couldn’t say how much.
However, among those who were willing to talk to The Times of Israel — many refused — there was a clear consensus summed up more than once in the phrase: “it was all wrong.”
None of the interviewees supported the attack; they also believed the Israeli measure of closing down the Temple Mount after the attack was wrong. That was the view, too, of one person from the Jabarin family working in the mall, who also said he was not able to talk on the record.
Israel closed off the Temple Mount to worshipers on Friday — the day that usually tens of thousands throng to the site — for what police said was a security measure to search if there were any more weapons, and for other evidence relating to the attack. The compound remained closed through Saturday, and was set to reopen on Sunday.
It was not immediately known how the terrorists brought the guns they used into the holy site. Hebrew media reports Saturday said they had been hidden at the compound days earlier. Muslim visitors to the Temple Mount complex go through a less rigorous security check than non-Muslim visitors who enter through the Mughrabi Bridge.
Muhammad Hamad Abdel Latif Jabarin, 19, the youngest of the three killers, had a number of posts on his personal Facebook page that showed he was interested in “freeing” Al-Aqsa Mosque from Israeli control.
One post from July 2016 shows a picture of the leader of the outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, Raed Salah, next to the Temple Mount.
The post reads: “Every year and the Al Aqsa Mosque is closer to freedom.”
Salah, who has been in and out of jail for incitement and links to terrorism, often propagates the idea that Israel is threatening to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The preacher was also once the mayor of Umm al-Fahm and his northern Islamic movement is still based here but has gone underground.
Muhammad Abdul Latif, the owner of a mall in the city, said of the attack, in which two Druze police officers were killed, “The most important thing is to say it was wrong.”
“Believe me, there is deep anger in our hearts over this attack,” he added.
Latif did not believe it was the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch that was to blame. He cited social media for the radicalization of the shooters, two of whom were 19-years-old and the other was 29. He pointed out that all over the world young people were being radicalized online.
Latif also said the police share responsibility for the attack because they have failed to deal with the spread of illegal weapons in Arab municipalities, and the gun violence that has rocked Arab citizens because of it.
“There are more weapons here than before the Nashat Milhem attack,” he said, referring to the Arab-Israeli from a nearby town who killed three people on January 1, 2016, in Tel Aviv.
After Milhem’s attack, Israeli police vowed to root out the well-known phenomenon of illegal weapons in Arab towns and villages.
Commenting on the closure of the Al Aqsa Mosque, Latif said it was “a big mistake that crossed all lines.”
While he condemned the attack, he and the four other men in his office held the idea that the Al Aqsa mosque was in danger from Israeli religious radicals who seek to hasten the building of the Third Jewish Temple on the site where the biblical Jewish temples stood.
They also criticized Israel’s policy of preventing unmarried Muslims, or those under 50, from praying at the site at certain times. Latif said he had twice been prevented from praying there while on trips with his family.
And while Latif thought closing the mosque was “collective punishment,” he argued, too, that the way Arab Israelis are called upon to answer for the radicals among them was also a form of collective punishment.
“What do we have to do with it?” he asked. “They are three guys and we are a town of 60,000 people. There are radicals in every society.”