5 charged for stabbing Palestinian while on way to Western Wall prayers

Jewish suspects indicted over violent attack at Jerusalem market on Ahmed Salima, which left him seriously wounded; no mention of racist motive

Ahmed Salima, 20, describes being attacked recently by a group of young Jewish men in Jerusalem. (Screenshot/ Kan)
Ahmed Salima, 20, describes being attacked recently by a group of young Jewish men in Jerusalem. (Screenshot/ Kan)

Prosecutors filed an indictment on Sunday against five Jewish Israelis over the stabbing and assault of an Arab man in Jerusalem last week while they were on their way to Selichot prayers at the Western Wall.

Tomer Zaken, 22, from Jerusalem was charged with aggravated intentional assault and possession of a knife. Suspects Barel Golan, 19, also from Jerusalem, Bir Kulni, and Yakir Zairi, both 20 from Hadera, and an unnamed 17-year-old were only charged with aggravated assault.

Police had accused the Jewish mob of committing the attack with a nationalistic motive when they were first arrested. But prosecutors omitted this in the indictment.

“The racist motive was removed, and so has the offense of attempted murder. Not every incident in which two sides quarrel with each other has a racist motive,” Zaken’s lawyer, Gabi Tronishvili, told the Ynet news site.

“The indictment describes a completely normal brawl. It’s not that the defendants had the aim of harming Arabs,” Tronishvili claimed.

Ahmed Salima, 20, was finishing up his shift at a restaurant in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market last Thursday when a group of Jews set upon him, beating and stabbing him for no apparent reason.

Police said the five suspects met up in central Jerusalem that night and had intended to travel to the Western Wall for a Selichot prayer service.

According to the investigation, the suspects encountered the victim on their way to the Western Wall and “a fight broke out at the scene during which those involved attacked the victim and even stabbed him with a sharp object and caused him serious injuries.”

“I was sitting outside, waiting for a cab, and they approached me,” Salima told the Kan public broadcaster from his hospital bed, in an interview that aired Sunday night. “One of them pulled out a knife. I saw he wanted to stab me.”

Salima said he grabbed a handful of dirt and threw it at the group of five men, and started running up Agrippas Street. “They chased me up the street and caught me,” he recounted. “They stabbed me and hit me, punched me. They didn’t say anything.”

Salima, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, was taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in serious condition with multiple stab wounds.

Salima said he was assisted by two Jewish passersby who gave him medical treatment and called for help. “Two Jews saved me,” he said. “One ripped open my shirt and used his hand to stop the bleeding, and said, ‘Look me in the eyes,’ and gave me water,” Salima recalled. “They stayed with me… and the other called an ambulance.”

Salima said he is grateful to have survived, but is still afraid when he recalls the incident.

Illustrative: A store in Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, July 27, 2016. (Zack Wajsgras/Flash90)

“Thank God, I came out of it okay,” he said. “But I can’t sleep at night. When I remember them, how they chased me with a knife, I can’t sleep at all.”

Asked if he would return to work at the market, Salima said it was unlikely.

“I can’t work because of my leg,” he said, before adding: “I’m scared they will stab me again.”

In May, a similar stabbing attack took place at the Mahane Yehuda market. The victim, a 25-year-old Arab man, was at his place of work — a burger restaurant — when he was stabbed 10 times by assailants. He was rushed to Shaare Zedek, where doctors found that a knife wielded by one of his assailants had torn open his lung and liver.

Prosecutors filed terrorism charges in late May against four Jewish men in connection with that attack, which came as Israel saw its worst intercommunal violence in decades, with mobs of Arabs and Jews attacking one another in mixed cities across the country during Israel’s 11-day conflict with terror groups in Gaza.

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