The Palestinian terrorist who went on a stabbing spree Tuesday night in Jaffa had recently returned from a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, posts on his Facebook profile indicate.
Bashar Massalha, a 22-year-old from the Qalqiliya area in the West Bank, killed an American tourist and injured 10 others in a rampage along the Jaffa boardwalk. He was killed by security forces during his attack.
Geographically pinned Facebook posts from February 26 through March 5 show that Massalha visited the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina days before carrying out his attack.
In his final Facebook post on March 7, apparently published from the West Bank a day before the attack, Massalha appears standing near the Kaaba in Mecca, giving a thumbs up.
In the text of the post, he wrote: “Oh God, the sight of you would make not only a man but a rock cry,” likely referring to the sacred rock itself.
In a separate post, in which Massalha appears in front of the Mecca Royal Clock Tower wearing a keffiyah — a common symbol of Palestinian nationalism — he wrote, “I am Palestinian and proud of it.”
A quick scroll through the attacker’s Facebook page reveals that while he was traditionally religious he was not a Hamas-style Islamist.
Other posts on Massalha’s page show he clearly had contempt for Israel.
In one post from January 30, 2016, the attacker appears standing in front of what he wrote was a checkpoint set up by Israeli police outside of his native West Bank village of Hajjah.
“We shall walk like lions on our pure land and not fear our enemy no matter his strength.”
نمشي اسؤد على ارضنا الطهرة ولا نخاف عدونا مهما كان قوته …….. من مدخل حجه الجنوبي يوجد هناك حاجز شرطة اسرئلية يخالف السيارت الفلسطينية
He was not apparently part of any organized terror group, though his stabbing spree was praised by Hamas, as were two other attacks by Palestinians on Tuesday.
A Facebook page associated with Fatah also praised the attack, along with two others that took place Tuesday.
“We promise you that your blood will continue to be a torch that illuminates our path, until we achieve what you died for as Martyrs,” a post read, according to Israel-based watchdog Palestinian Media Watch.
The attack in Jaffa was the third of the day Tuesday, and came as US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting former Israeli president Shimon Peres nearby.
Police said the attacker first stabbed three people along the Jaffa boardwalk, a popular site for shopping and leisure, before fleeing inland toward the city’s Kikar Hasha’on, where he stabbed three more people. He then went on to stab at least four people near the Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv.
Jaffa had not previously seen any stabbing attacks in the recent wave of terror. Police announced they would step up their presence in the city and in Tel Aviv following the incident.
While Jaffa is technically within Tel Aviv’s municipal boundaries, the neighborhood is considered a distinct entity, with a unique mix of Jewish and Arab residents.
Before Tuesday, 29 Israelis and three foreign nationals had been killed in a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence since October. About 180 Palestinians have also been killed, some two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.
The American tourist who was killed, 29-year-old Taylor Force, was a US army veteran who had done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He graduated from West Point Military Academy in 2009 and served as a field artillery officer from 2009 to 2014 at Fort Hood.
Force’s wife was severely injured in the attack, according to Zaki Heller, spokesperson for the Magen David Adom ambulance service.
“It is with extreme sadness that I write to inform you that Taylor Force, a student at our Owen Graduate School of Management, was fatally wounded March 8 in a stabbing attack while on an Owen school trip to Tel Aviv, Israel,” the Nashville, Tennessee, university said in a statement. “All other Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff on the trip are safe.”
The State Department issued a statement in which it said it “condemns in the strongest possible terms” the attack in Jaffa, as well as two other attacks in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv suburb Petah Tikva.
Graphic footage from the scene of the attack appeared to show a policeman shooting one round at the stabber as he lay on the ground, with civilians cheering and urging him and other officers to aim for his head.
Raul Wootliff, Judah Ari Gross and Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.