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Brother, other relatives of Bnei Brak terrorist detained as IDF raids West Bank home

In pre-demolition move, IDF maps residence of gunman Diaa Hamarsheh in Ya’bad; Hamas chief Haniyeh praises attack; separately, 6 detained on suspicion of links to Islamic State

Soldiers detain a suspect in the West Bank town of Ya’bad near Jenin, following a deadly terror attack in Bnei Brak, March 30, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Soldiers detain a suspect in the West Bank town of Ya’bad near Jenin, following a deadly terror attack in Bnei Brak, March 30, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces arrested early Wednesday morning the brother of the Palestinian terrorist who killed five people in Bnei Brak and was shot dead a night earlier.

The brother was detained as troops raided the West Bank home of Diaa Hamarsheh, 26, who on Tuesday carried out the third deadly terror attack in Israel within a week.

A number of other individuals were also arrested as security services investigate whether the terrorist had any accomplices and how he came to be in possession of the M16 rifle used in the attack.

The suspects — some of whom were also relatives of the gunman — were transferred to the Shin Bet security agency for questioning.

IDF troops also mapped out Hamarsheh’s residence in Ya’bad, near Jenin, ahead of a potential demolition.

Israeli authorities often take punitive action such as home demolitions before a conviction in cases of terrorist attacks. Israel defends the practice of razing the family home of attackers as a deterrent against future assaults and officials have argued that speed is essential, claiming that the deterrent factor degrades over time.

As soldiers converged on the home, a large crowd gathered, leading to clashes between the troops and locals. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Hamarsheh killed four civilians before he died in a shootout with a police officer, who was his fifth victim.

Media reports said there were celebrations outside his home and in some other Palestinian cities after news of the attack broke.

A video was released overnight by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, claiming responsibility for the attack. The brigade is a coalition of armed groups loosely affiliated with the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party.

The video contained a message in Hebrew warning the IDF against entering Jenin.

Separately, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh released a statement in which he welcomed the deadly attack, which had earlier been praised by his terror group.

“We are proud of the Palestinian people and the free people of the nation in the face of the heroic attack that struck all of Israel,” he said.

“Our people were born out of the womb of these heroes in Jenin, the Negev and the Triangle, with the ‘Sword of Jerusalem’ brought by Gaza during last Ramadan,” Haniyeh said, referring to the terrorists who carried out the recent deadly attacks in Bnei Brak, Beersheba and Hadera, as well as the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Gaza terror groups.

Separately, security services said five people were detained overnight in the north, and one in the southern city of Rahat, on suspicion of supporting Islamic State. Two of the deadly attacks in recent days — in Beersheba and Hadera — were perpetrated by individuals who had sworn allegiance to the terror group.

The arrests came after police ordered officers go on heightened alert, the army said it would beef up troop presence along the West Bank’s border with Israel, and cities announced they would shut down construction sites in order to keep Palestinian laborers away.

The IDF said it was bolstering troops in the West Bank and border areas with four additional battalions following a security meeting. Another four battalions had already been deployed to the region following the terror attack in Hadera on Sunday.

The security cabinet will convene on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the outbreak of violence.

It was not immediately clear how Hamarsheh entered Israel. According to the Ynet news site, which cited defense officials, he drove to the scene of the attack in a car bearing Israeli license plates. The report said the rifle he used was likely smuggled in from Jordan or Egypt, and not stolen from the military. It was also being investigated if the firearm was a converted airsoft rifle.

Diaa Hamarsheh, a Palestinian terrorist who shot dead five people in Bnei Brak on March 29, 2022

He previously served time in Israeli prison for membership in a terror group and weapons dealing.

Bnei Brak’s mayor ordered police to sweep and inspect construction sites in the city on Wednesday to search for workers illegally staying in Israel. Many West Bank Palestinians illegally work in construction in Israel.

Schools in Bnei Brak operated as usual on Wednesday, but with an increased security presence. Several other cities followed suit, including nearby Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan, which said there would be increased patrols.

The mayor of Rishon Lezion notified residents that gardening and construction work at schools will not take place Wednesday in light of the attack. The mayor of Kiryat Gat announced that all construction work in his town will not take place Wednesday.

A member of Zaka Rescue and Recovery team cleans blood and human remains from the site where a Palestinian terrorist opened fire and killed five people in Bnei Brak, Israel, Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (AP PhotoOded Balilty)

Several West Bank settlements also announced that they will not allow Palestinian workers to enter for construction jobs.

The gunman was killed by two police officers following the rampage, which saw him open fire on people who were walking, riding bikes, or driving in their cars in the city east of Tel Aviv just before 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

Four of the victims were declared dead at the scene, with the fifth — police officer Amir Khoury, 32 — added to the fatalities after being rushed to Beilinson Medical Center, officials said. Khoury, 32, was a Christian Arab from Nof Hagalil.

Bnei Brak resident Yaakov Shalem, a father of five, was named as a victim, as was fellow Bnei Brak resident Rabbi Avishai Yehezkel, 29.

Yehezkel is survived by his pregnant wife and a 2-year-old son. According to reports, he had taken the young child down to the street in his stroller in an attempt to get the child to sleep, when he was shot dead by Hamarsheh.

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)

His brother, Ovadia Yehezkel, told Kol Chai radio that Avishai used his body to shield his son, saving the child who was then left alone in the street after his father was killed.

“Avishai was a special man. He protected his baby with his body. Miraculously the boy survived. We have not internalized the difficult loss. I have no doubt that he is a martyr,” he said.

Police said the two other victims were Ukrainian nationals aged 23 and 32. The two were not immediately named.

Tensions have risen in recent weeks across Israel, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and a string of deadly attacks has underlined concerns about an escalating wave of violence ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

On Sunday, two police officers were killed in a shooting attack in Hadera. The Arab Israeli gunmen were affiliated with the Islamic State jihadist group.

Five days earlier, four people were killed in a terror attack in the southern city of Beersheba. The terrorist — previously convicted of attempting to join IS — was shot dead by passersby. He was also an Israeli citizen.

Ten Palestinians were killed in violent confrontations with Israeli troops. Some died in gun battles with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, others during attempted attacks.

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