As the the two victims of the Jerusalem shooting attack were laid to rest Sunday evening, questions were being raised as to why Israel’s vaunted security apparatus had not managed to prevent the killing spree.
The gunman, a 39-year-old from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, had served time in jail for violence and was supposed to have reported to prison Sunday morning after again being being convicted of assaulting a police officer. He had been known “for years” to the Shin Bet security agency and Israel Police, Channel 2’s Arab affairs correspondent Ehud Ya’ari noted Sunday night.
In recent days, he had been very vocal on social media, and even given interviews to a Palestinian news agency, repeatedly inciting to violence.
He had also been connected with Hamas, who claimed him after the terror spree as a member. He was shot dead by security forces who converged on him as he carried out his murderous shooting spree.
“For some reason he was not being monitored or followed. And the question is why not?” said Channel 2’s veteran police reporter Moshe Nussbaum. “Maybe, and I say this cautiously, but maybe he could have been stopped.”
Jerusalem’s police chief Yoram Halevy, asked whether the attack should have been prevented, said Sunday night that the police were monitoring “many potential attackers” and that the terrorist was “one of those who certainly had the potential” to carry out an attack. He refused to elaborate.
Halevy said that the reinforced police presence in the capital had prevented an even graver attack. The killer, who reportedly used an Israeli army-issue M-16 machine-gun, had “lots and lots of ammunition,” he said, and was headed to the center of town, where “he would have killed lots of people.”
The Israeli assessment of the danger the killer posed, said Channel 2’s Ya’ari, was simply incorrect. He had been barred from the Temple Mount. He had been regarded as a troublemaker, a provocateur and an inciter, said Ya’ari. But it was not realized that he was “about to make the transition for using his fists to using a machine-gun.”
Israel’s justice system was also blamed.
“The attack and the failure,” was the headline on the Ynet Hebrew website on Sunday evening. “The terrorist attacked, incited and missed his hearings and was rewarded with a plea bargain and a delayed sentence.”
The attacker, whose name was still barred for publication Sunday evening because of a police gag order, should have been in jail, but had his four-month sentence for attacking an officer postponed, even though he repeatedly failed to show up for his court proceedings, Ynet said.
In 2013, he was indicted for assaulting a police officer in Jerusalem’s Old City. The case was dropped that year, but it was reopened in 2015. He was then convicted and sentenced to four months in prison, but the actual sentence was delayed until this month.
In an interview with the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news on Saturday, the terrorist said he planned to arrive at Ramle prison in central Israel at 10 a.m. on Sunday — the precise time his deadly shooting spree began.
He had apparently been threatened with an open-ended administrative detention — imprisonment without trial — if he failed to appear at the prison, according to Ma’an news.
The killer had been picked up and released five times over the past two weeks and banned from entering East Jerusalem for one month, he told Ma’an news.
He had previously served time in an Israeli prison, from July to December 2015, for charges of incitement.
Israel’s Channel 10 said that the attacker was recently indicted on 15 counts of incitement to violence, and seven counts of supporting a terror organization for posts on Facebook.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said much of the responsibility lay with social media sites, like Facebook, which did not take down his posts.
“Facebook and other social media have a direct responsibility,” Erdan said after touring the site of Sunday’s attack. It was “scandalous,” Erdan added, that Facebook had reopened various Hamas-linked Facebook pages in the past two weeks “because of Palestinian public pressure.” Thus, said Erdan, there was a direct link between Facebook and the terrorism.
In a video shot at a party welcoming the terrorist home from prison at the end of his 2015, some revelers can be seen waving flags of the Hamas terrorist group.
He was also apparently connected to the Murabitun group, an Islamic Movement organization that hassles non-Muslim visitors to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The Palestinian Authority said the attacker’s brother was also known to the Israeli security establishment, and was arrested in the Old City on Sunday.