The terrorist who stabbed and wounded up to a dozen Israelis on and near a Tel Aviv bus Wednesday morning was identified by police as Hamza Matrouk. The 23-year-old entered Israel illegally from the Tulkarem refugee camp in the northern West Bank before boarding the bus and stabbing 12 commuters and pedestrians, seriously wounding three, among them the bus driver.
Matrouk, who was captured after he was shot in the leg by an off-duty prison guard, told Shin Bet interrogators that he carried out the attack in retaliation for Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last summer and the recent unrest on the Temple Mount. He admitted that he was motivated by watching radical Islamic television programs, and spoke of “reaching paradise.”
Residents of the Tulkarem refugee camp told the Palestinian Ma’an news agency that Matrouk was not affiliated with any political groups, and his friends said they didn’t notice anything unusual in his behavior the night before the attack.
Interviewed by the Hebrew media outlet Ynet on Wednesday, Matrouk’s friends said they didn’t believe he was motivated by a thirst for revenge, but rather by desperation born of his circumstances. One friend was quoted as saying that Matrouk and his family had fallen on hard times and that Matrouk was in a fragile psychological state. Another said Matrouk often spoke of wanting to move to Tel Aviv to find a stable job.
Yet other residents of the Tulkarem refugee camp welcomed the news of Matrouk’s violent attack, calling him a “brave hero.” Meanwhile, his Facebook wall was reportedly filled with messages praising the stabbing. Some of his online friends dubbed him “Abu Sayyaf,” a known Islamic State affiliate, and others wrote how impressed they were at number of Israelis he managed to injure, Ynet said.
On his Facebook profile, Matrouk described himself as a “gentleman” and listed his occupation as an electrician. Although he traveled to Tulkarem regularly, he was living in Ramallah with his mother up until Wednesday’s attack.
Matrouk, who is the son of a Palestinian security prisoner, had no prior arrest record or known affiliations to terror groups.
He was apprehended by security forces after being shot in the leg while attempting to flee the scene of the attack by an officer of Israel’s Prison Service who happened to be nearby.
The attack appears to be the latest “lone wolf” terror attacks, where Palestinians have killed and wounded Israelis in recent months using rocks, acid, knives and vehicles in protest of a perceived change in the status quo of the Temple Mount, a holy site for both Jews and Muslims.