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2 Ukrainian nationals among Bnei Brak dead; embassy decries ‘heinous’ attack

Terror victims named as police officer Amir Khoury, 32, Ya’akov Shalom, 36, and Avishai Yehezkel, 29; witness says he was spared when terrorist’s gun jammed

Mourners at the funeral of Avishai Yehezkel, who was killed in a terror attack in Bnei Brak, March 30, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Mourners at the funeral of Avishai Yehezkel, who was killed in a terror attack in Bnei Brak, March 30, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police said Wednesday morning that the two unnamed victims in the Bnei Brak terror attack a day earlier were foreign nationals from Ukraine.

The two, aged 23 and 32, were killed as they sat outside a grocery store on the city’s Bialik Street when terrorist Diaa Hamarsheh, 26, opened fire.

The two were not formally identified and it was unclear how long they had been in Israel.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Israel issued a statement condemning the “heinous” terror attack and confirming that two Ukrainian nationals were among the dead.

“With deep sorrow we confirm that two citizens of Ukraine were among victims,” the embassy said in a Facebook post. “We express our condolences and sympathy to the families of the deceased. The upscale [sic] of violence and terrorism is unacceptable and it must be stopped.”

Authorities earlier identified the other three of the five victims of the deadly terror shooting spree in Bnei Brak the previous night, including two young fathers and a police officer who helped kill the gunman.

Mourners at the funeral of Avishai Yehezkel who was killed in a terror attack in Bnei Brak, March 30, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The victims were named as officer Amir Khoury, 32, Yaakov Shalom, 36, and Avishai Yehezkel, 30.

Hundreds of people gathered in Bnei Brak on Wednesday morning for the funeral of Yehezkel, a yeshiva student who had taken his 2-year-old son for an evening walk in his stroller when he was shot while trying to protect the boy.

He is survived by his wife, who is eight months pregnant, and his son.

According to reports, Yehezkel had taken the young child down to the street in his stroller in an attempt to get the boy to sleep.

The victim’s brother Ovadia Yehezkel eulogized him at the funeral, saying that Avishai called to warn him that there was a gunman, and then used his body to shield his son, saving the child, who was left alone in the street after his father was killed.

“Last night the world turned upside down. You called me and said, ‘I hear shots, be careful, stay inside the house.’ And that’s it. I heard no more from you. You cared for us more than you cared for yourself,” he said.

“You cared for your son, you did not give up, you took the bullets like an eagle. You said: ‘It would be better for him to hurt me than the child,'” Ovadia said, alluding to the biblical allegory of the bird that protects its young.

The stroller left behind after Avishai Yehezkel, 29, was killed in a Bnei Brak terror attack while walking his son, March 29, 2022 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Khoury, an Arab Israeli from the northern town of Nof Hagalil, served on the Bnei Brak police station’s motorcyclist responders team.

He was part of a team of two motorcycle officers who caught up with the gunman, Diaa Hamarsheh, 26, and killed him, ending the deadly shooting spree.

Khoury was hit in the exchange of fire and later died after being rushed to Beilinson Medical Center, officials said.

According to the Ynet news site, Khoury’s father, Jarris, himself a veteran of the police force, sent his son a text message as soon as he heard the initial reports of shooting in Bnei Brak.

“What is happening in Bnei Brak? Let me know that everything is okay with you.” he wrote. After two hours without a response from his son, the father wrote again: “Amir, say something.”

Khoury, a Christian Arab, leaves behind his parents and two sisters. His funeral is set to take place on Thursday in his hometown of Nof Hagalil.

Three of the victims of the deadly attack in Bnei Brak on March 29, 2022 from left to right Amir Khoury, Avishai Yehezkel and Ya’akov Shalom (Courtesy)

Bnei Brak resident Shalom was also named as a victim.

Shalom was driving home when he was stopped by the gunman, who opened fire on his vehicle from a close range.

Haredi media reported that Shalom was the son of Rabbi Meir Shalom, a prominent leader of the Yemenite community in Beni Brak, who died last year of COVID.

His funeral procession was set to depart from the family home at 11 a.m. Wednesday. He is survived by his mother, wife and four children, the Behadrei Haredim website reported.

An eyewitness told of the moment he came face to face with the terrorist, but the gunman’s weapon jammed, sparing him, in a moment captured on security camera footage.

“I heard the booms, and people said there was shooting. But I said it must be firecrackers. I went downstairs and exited the building and the terrorist was in front of me, with his weapon aimed at me,” the man said.

“He was aiming the weapon and wanted to shoot me, but it jammed. I have no  explanation other than that a miracle from heaven kept me alive,” he said. “I shouted ‘terrorist’ and ran back upstairs.”

Hamarsheh, the shooter, was a Palestinian from the town of Ya’bad near Jenin in the West Bank who was in Israel illegally. He arrived in Bnei Brak in a vehicle on Tuesday evening, and disembarked on Jabotinsky Street.

In front of a local store, he pulled out his M16 and tried to fire at passersby, barely missing a pedestrian and a man on his bicycle.

The attacker then continued to Bialik Street, but did not find anyone there, so he moved on to a nearby grocery store, where he shot dead the two Ukrainian nationals.

Members of the Zaka emergency organization remove a body from the scene of a shooting attack in Bnei Brak, March 29, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Hamarsheh continued to fire at passersby, but his gun jammed briefly. A car being driven by Shalom then passed by. Hamarsheh shouted “stop” as he pointed his rifle through the window and fired, killing him.

At that point, six minutes had passed since the start of the killing spree. Hamarsheh then proceeded to Herzl Street, where he shot Yehezkel.

As Hamarsheh continued down Herzl Street, two officers on a police motorcycle confronted him and began firing. Hamarsheh returned fire, striking Khoury, who later died of his wounds.

The second officer succeeded in killing Hamarsheh, bringing an end to the deadly spree.

The attack, the third deadly terror incident in a week, exacerbated concerns about an escalating wave of violence ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

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