Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a rare condemnation of the terror attack that left five Israelis dead in Bnei Brak on Tuesday night, as dozens of Palestinians rallied in support of the gunman in his West Bank hometown.
“[The president] expressed his condemnation of the killing of Israeli civilians tonight, emphasizing that the killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians only leads the situation to deteriorate,” Abbas’ office said in a statement.
Eleven Israelis have died in the past week in the deadly attacks by Arab Israelis and Palestinians across the country. While Ramallah’s rivals — including Hamas and Islamic Jihad — celebrated the killings, Abbas stayed silent until Tuesday’s attack.
Earlier 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 of injuries sustained in a firefight in which the terrorist was killed.
The gunman was identified as Diaa Hamarsheh, a 26-year-old resident of the town of Ya’abad near Jenin in the West Bank who was in Israel illegally. Hamarsheh was sentenced to a year and a half in Israeli prison for security offenses in 2013. Police also arrested a number of suspected accomplices.
Ramallah had refrained from publicly discussing the escalating terror wave against Israelis at all, remaining silent during the deadly attacks in Beersheba last Tuesday and Hadera on Sunday. Surveys regularly show that large swathes of the Palestinian public view “armed struggle” against Israel as legitimate.
“The cycle of violence confirms that a comprehensive, just and stable peace is the shortest, most correct path to security and stability for both peoples,” Abbas said.
Abbas noted that the Ramadan holy month was coming up, as well as the Jewish and Christian holidays. Officials and analysts have warned for months that the convergence of major holy days for all three faiths over the next few weeks could spark violence.
“We all aim to realize stability,” Abbas said.
Pro-Hamas news sites circulated videos of what they said were Ya’abad residents congregating in front of Hamarsheh’s home to demonstrate solidarity with the dead terrorist.
“Millions of martyrs are marching to Jerusalem!” the town residents chanted, according to the footage.
Palestinian terror groups praised the deadly shooting spree, though none took responsibility for the slaughter.
“The Tel Aviv operation emphasizes the unity of the Palestinian people everywhere 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 heightened alert as Ramadan approaches.
The situation escalated after two attacks committed by Arab Israeli terrorists left six people dead over the past week. Those two attacks were perpetrated by Israeli Arab citizens and apparently inspired by the ultra-fundamentalist Islamic State terrorist organization rather than by Hamas or another Palestinian group.
— قناة الجزيرة (@AJArabic) March 29, 2022
On Sunday, two police officers were killed in a shooting attack in Hadera by two terrorists who were shot dead. Five days prior, an Arab Israeli terrorist killed four people at a mall in southern city of Beersheba. The terrorist — previously convicted of attempting to join the Islamic State — was shot dead by passersby.
PA leader Abbas also warned that the “condemnable incident” might spark revenge attacks by Israelis against Palestinians. The recent terror 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, awoke to find that someone had sought to burn down a mosque in their town overnight. A slogan reading “Jews will not be silent when we are murdered” was graffitied on a nearby wall, along with a Star of David, according to images from the scene.
Prominent Arab Israeli politicians also condemned Tuesday’s Bnei Brak attack, including both Joint List chief Ayman Odeh and Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas. The latter, whose party is a member of the governing coalition, called the shooting “a despicable, vile terror crime against innocent civilians.”
“We will not stop at merely condemning, because the terror is not stopping and does not bow its head. We are determined to walk a peaceful path, despite all the extremists,” Mansour Abbas said.
Odeh also condemned the attacks. But he compared the Israelis killed in Bnei Brak to Palestinians killed during clashes with Israeli forces.
“Five civilians were killed today — each a world in their own right. They join the 51 Palestinians killed since the beginning of the year — each one a world in its own right,” Odeh says.
“It is time to end the source of hatred that is the damned occupation, and to establish peace that will bring security and normal life to both peoples,” Odeh added.