Court extends detention of 3 suspects in Jerusalem attempted stabbing

Decision to release residents of Umm al-Fahm to house arrest against police wishes is overruled by district judges

An assailant armed with a knife is seen attempting to stab a policeman in Jerusalem's Old City, August 17, 2018 (Israel Police)
An assailant armed with a knife is seen attempting to stab a policeman in Jerusalem's Old City, August 17, 2018 (Israel Police)

The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday extended by two days the detention of three men suspected of involvement in Friday’s Old City attempted stabbing attack, overruling the Magistrate’s Court which had released them to house arrest.

The suspects, all residents of the northern Israel Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, were arrested in the hours after the attack after police identified them walking through the alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City close to the stabber, Ahmed Muhammad Mahameed, who is also from the same town.

On Saturday night, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered the three sent home due to lack of evidence, but police petitioned against the decision. They will now be held until Tuesday.

The three men said they are not connected with Mahameed and were not involved in the attack.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday rejected claims by the Umm al-Fahm Municipality that the stabber was allegedly suffering from mental issues and that police had been too quick to open fire.

“I expect the Umm al-Fahm municipality to do some soul-searching — this is giving a sermon with crocodile tears,” Liberman told the Kan public broadcaster. “When a stabber charges at you, you have a few seconds to think and make a decision; does the policeman know the biography of the attacker?”

“They always say after the fact that there was no intention and that the attacker is disturbed. I have never seen in the Arab population that they take responsibility and say that they are guilty. They allow incitement against a country in which they have a good life.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a press conference on July 19, 2018. (Flash90)

Police said that Mahameed, who had come from the direction of the Temple Mount in the Old City, approached a group of policemen, pulled out a knife and attempted to stab one of them. The officers scuffled with the assailant and one of them shot him, killing him.

His family said that he struggled with mental health issues, and had not carried out the attack for nationalistic reasons. Mahameed, 24, had spent significant time in the Sha’ar Menashe psychiatric medical center in northern Israel, according to his brother Nissim Mahameed. “He was sick and could not function,” Nissim told the Haaretz daily on Saturday.

The family condemned the officer who fired the fatal shot for being “light with his finger on the trigger.”

The Umm al-Fahm Municipality released a statement Saturday condemning police for what it called the “cold-blooded murder” of its resident.

Ahmed Muhammad Mahameed, who was shot dead by police when attempting to stab an officer in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 18, 2018. (Courtesy)

“The city condemns the incomprehensible conduct, especially in light of the young man’s mental and health condition,” the statement read. It did not elaborate on how the officers at the scene would have been able to know the assailant’s state of mental well-being ahead of time.

Police said an initial probe of the incident had shown police fire was entirely justified.

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