RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian terrorist who stabbed to death three members of an Israeli family while they were eating Shabbat dinner at home Friday night, was arrested three months ago by security forces of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, his uncle said Saturday.
Ibrahim al-Abed said his nephew Omar al-Abed spent two weeks in PA detention and was violently interrogated about alleged plans to attack Israelis before he was released.
The terrorist’s father said that his son was upset over the loss of Palestinian lives following violent clashes over escalating tensions at the Temple Mount and wanted to protect the “honor” of the Jerusalem holy site.
“The honor of Muslims is only the Haram,” Mohammed al-Abed said. “If it’s gone, the Muslims’ honor is gone. This was the motive for my son.”
Al-Abed said in a pre-attack Facebook post that he expected to be killed in the attack. He wrote that he wanted his body to be covered by a banner of the Hamas terror group and a photo of Abbas’s predecessor, Yasser Arafat.
Israel has repeatedly accused Abbas and his Palestinian Authority of permitting anti-Israeli incitement in the public Palestinian discourse.
Following Friday’s attack, the IDF deployed additional troops throughout the West Bank in order prevent any further terror attacks.
On Saturday morning, Israeli troops searched the assailant’s family home in the West Bank village of Kobar and detained one of his brothers, the army said. Video footage released by the military shows soldiers leading away a handcuffed and blindfolded man.
The army said soldiers searched the house and measured it in preparation for demolition.
Friday’s stabbing was carried out after al-Abed jumped over the fence of the West Bank settlement of Halamish and entered a home, attacking a family during their Sabbath dinner.
The IDF said al-Abed killed a father and two of his adult children, while the mother was badly wounded. An off-duty soldier heard the screams at his neighbors’ house, rushed to the home and opened fire, wounding al-Abed who was taken to an Israeli hospital, said the head of Israel’s rescue service.
A photo released by the military showed a kitchen floor covered with blood.
Itai Orayon, a medic, said he found “blood everywhere” in the house. He told Israel Army Radio that three people were on the floor, unconscious “with deep stab wounds all over their bodies,” and that the medical team was unable to save them.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night expressed his “deep sorrow” over the killings. “This was an act of terror perpetrated by a human animal, infused with abhorrent hatred,” the prime minister said in a statement, released minutes after the end of the Sabbath.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot visited the scene of the attack on Friday, where Liberman called on Abbas to condemn the deadly stabbing.
On Friday, several thousand Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces in the West Bank and in Jerusalem after noon prayers, the highlight of the Muslim religious week. Three Palestinians were killed and several dozen wounded by live rounds and bullets in some of the worst street clashes in two years.
Disputes over the shrine, revered by Muslims and Jews, have set off major rounds of Israeli-Palestinian confrontations in the past. They were also at the root of the current violence which began last week when three Arab-Israeli terrorists fired from the shrine using weapons they smuggled into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, killing two Israeli policemen.
In response, Israel installed metal detectors at the gates of the 37-acre (15-hectare) walled compound, saying the devices were a needed security measure to prevent more attacks.
Muslims alleged Israel was trying to expand its control at the Muslim-administered site under the guise of security — a claim Israel denies — and launched mass prayer protests.
A senior Israeli government official blamed the latest round of violence on what he said was Palestinian incitement against Israel and called on Palestinian leaders to help restore calm.
Michael Oren, a deputy minister for public diplomacy, alleged Saturday that Hamas and Abbas’s government are exploiting tensions to incite violence. He said claims that Israel intends to change delicate arrangements at the Muslim-administered Jerusalem shrine are “emphatically untrue.”
Abbas has rejected Israeli incitement allegations, saying Israel’s 50-year-old control of lands sought for a Palestinian state is at the root of widespread Palestinian anger and helps drive violence.
Although Abbas has encouraged violent demonstrators at the Temple Mount, saying in 2015 any blood spilled in defense of the holy site was “pure,” he has stuck to security coordination during his 12 years in power between his forces and Israeli troops against a common enemy — Hamas.
On Friday evening, Abbas announced that he would “freeze” ties with Israel “on all levels” until the metal detectors are removed from the shrine, but did not say whether this means halting security coordination. Ending such ties would have far-reaching repercussions and sharply raise tensions with Israel.
Oren suggested Abbas’ rule wouldn’t survive long without security coordination with Israel, and that cutting such ties “cuts off the limb on which he sits.”
Even if largely meant for domestic Palestinian consumption, the Abbas announcement dealt a setback to fledgling efforts by the Trump administration to revive long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian talks on a peace deal.
Such efforts now seem moot as Israelis and Palestinians refuse to budge in the showdown over the shrine and violence threatens to escalate.
Israel’s military said Saturday it sent more troops to the West Bank. It did not elaborate but said the decision came after hundreds of troops were deployed Friday.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.