Court removes gag order on name, photo of Jerusalem terrorist
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Court removes gag order on name, photo of Jerusalem terrorist

Mesbah Abu Sabih, 39-year-old East Jerusalem resident, can finally be identified as gunmen who carried out Sunday’s deadly shooting

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Mesbah Abu Sabih on the Temple Mount in an undated photograph. (Social media)
Mesbah Abu Sabih on the Temple Mount in an undated photograph. (Social media)

The name of the terrorist responsible for carrying out a deadly shooting spree that killed two Israelis in Jerusalem on Sunday was finally okayed for publication Thursday, after a Jerusalem court partially lifted a gag order on the investigation into the attack.

Mesbah Abu Sabih, a 39-year-old resident of Silwan in East Jerusalem, and former resident of al-Ram in the West Bank, killed one person when he opened fire on pedestrians near the capital’s Ammunition Hill on Sunday, before he was shot and killed in a gun battle with police.

One of the officers in the shootout was killed, while a second was moderately wounded.

Five people in total were injured in the attack.

Jerusalem resident Levana Malihi, 60, left, and police officer First Sergeant Yosef Kirma, 29, who were shot dead in a terror attack in Jerusalem, October 9, 2016. (Police spokesperson)
Jerusalem resident Levana Malihi, 60, left, and police officer First Sergeant Yosef Kirma, 29, who were shot dead in a terror attack in Jerusalem, October 9, 2016. (Police spokesperson)

In an interview with Palestinian news agency Ma’an the day before the killings, Abu Sabih said he planned to arrive at Ramle prison in central Israel at 10 a.m. on Sunday — the same time his deadly shooting spree began.

The gunman was indicted in 2013 for assaulting a police officer in Jerusalem’s Old City. The case was dropped that year, but was reopened in 2015 and Abu Sabih was convicted and sentenced to four months in prison, beginning in October 2016.

He had apparently been threatened with open-ended administrative detention — imprisonment without trial — if he failed to appear at the prison, Ma’an reported.

In the two weeks prior to the attack, Abu Sabih had been picked up and released by police five times and had been banned from entering East Jerusalem for one month, he told Ma’an.

However, many Israelis — including Likud lawmaker Yehuda Glick — blamed the Israeli court system and law enforcement for not doing a better job tracking Abu Sabih, which they say would have prevented his deadly attack.

Within an hour of the attack, the Israel Police and Shin Bet domestic security service requested and received a court-approved gag order on all details of the case, including Abu Sabih’s name and the names of his victims. No explanation was offered for either the ban or for why it was lifted.

This gag order has not prevented non-Israeli media, including Palestinian outlets, from publishing Abu Sabih’s personal information, causing some to question the efficacy of such an order.

Noy Kirma speaking at the funeral of her husband, First Sergeant Yosef Kirma, who was killed during a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, October 9, 2016. (Screen capture: Ynet)
Noy Kirma speaking at the funeral of her husband, First Sergeant Yosef Kirma, who was killed during a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, October 9, 2016. (Screen capture: Ynet)

On Thursday evening, the Jerusalem District Court partially ended the gag order, allowing the publication of the terrorist’s identity and his victims’ names.

However, the police and Knesset had already released the names of the victims killed in the attack — First Sergeant Yosef Kirma and Levana Malihi.

Details of the investigation, which included questions on how Abu Sabih acquired the weapon he used in the attack and whether he had any accomplices, remain under the gag order until it expires next month, provided law enforcement officials do not request an extension.

Israeli security forces cordon off the site of a shooting attack near police headquarters in Jerusalem on October 9, 2016. (AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)
Israeli security forces cordon off the site of a shooting attack near police headquarters in Jerusalem on October 9, 2016. (AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)

The attack broke a spell of calm in the capital that followed a months-long wave of violence last autumn and winter that included several attacks near Ammunition Hill.

Officials had feared a return to stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks with the onset of the fall’s Jewish holiday season, when religious tensions often spike.

October 2015 marked the start of several months of near-daily attacks during which at least 34 Israelis and over 200 Palestinians were killed. Most of the Palestinians killed were attackers or involved in clashes with troops, the IDF said.

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