Jenin governor says Tel Aviv shooter not a terrorist, deems him ‘Fatah fighter’

Akram Rajoub claims Israeli sanctions on northern West Bank city and nearby towns will lead to more violence following deadly terror attack that killed 3 in Dizengoff bar

Akram Rajoub, who served until August  10, 2023 as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Jenin governor. (WAFA)
Akram Rajoub, who served until August 10, 2023 as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Jenin governor. (WAFA)

Jenin governor Akram Rajoub called a Jenin resident who committed a deadly terror attack Thursday in Tel Aviv that killed three people a “Fatah fighter,” telling The Times of Israel and other outlets that he did not consider him to be a terrorist.

The governor was later spotted at a mourners’ tent set up by the family of the terrorist, 29-year-old Ra’ad Hazem, who was killed Friday morning during a gunfight with police in Jaffa. The event was also set up to mourn Islamic Jihad member Ahmad al-Sa’adi, who was killed in a gunfight with Israeli troops in Jenin on Saturday.

Rajoub, a longtime Palestinian Authority security official and member of the ruling Fatah party, serves as PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s representative in Jenin.

In a speech at the mourner’s tent, Rajoub called Hazem “a Fatah warrior, for whom the occupation’s bullets did not distinguish between him and his comrade Ahmad al-Sa’adi.”

Israeli authorities slapped sanctions on the Jenin governorate on Saturday night. Most significantly, Arab Israelis will not be allowed into the area through the Jalameh and Rihan checkpoints, a significant economic blow to the city.

Speaking with The Times of Israel, Rajoub slammed the Israeli decision to sanction the West Bank area. “When you punish all of Jenin, prevent commerce and workers, you push people into a corner. Expect them to do anything,” Rajoub told The Times of Israel.

Rajoub declined to condemn the Jenin shooters. He also distanced himself from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s denunciation of the attacks.

“Palestinians are not terrorists. Palestinians want to free themselves from occupation,” Rajoub said.

“There’s no political horizon, there’s no economic horizon, and there’s no hope of ending the occupation. So what do you expect from the Palestinian people?” he added.

In an edited interview with the Kan public broadcaster on Saturday, Rajoub repeated that he does not consider Hazem to be a terrorist.

“You have pushed the Palestinian people into a corner. The Palestinian people… see murder [and] blood, and see all the criminal events… by the IDF. What is it that you want? For them to give them [soldiers] a rose, for example?” Rajoub said.

In response to a question on whether the Tel Aviv shooter was a terrorist, Rajoub said: “No, I don’t see him as a terrorist.”

Another Palestinian official, Fatah spokesperson Mounir al-Jaghoub, posted a photo of Hazem’s father, Fathi, embracing the father of Ahmed as-Saadi, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad gunman who was killed Saturday in a shootout with Israeli security forces during a raid of Hazem’s Jenin home.

Palestinian security forces were nowhere in evidence during the Israeli raid, drawing criticism on Palestinian social media. Israeli and Palestinian security forces coordinate closely when Israeli troops enter Palestinians areas to avoid friendly fire, a policy widely unpopular among Palestinians.

Israeli officials said three people were arrested in the raid Saturday, including a gunman who was seriously wounded in a firefight and taken by military helicopter to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa for treatment.

A military official told The Times of Israel that soldiers sought to arrest Fathi Hazem on Saturday night, but he was not home at the time of the operation. Fathi is a former security prisoner who previously served as a senior officer in the Palestinian Authority’s security services in Jenin.

On Friday, Fathi praised his son’s actions to a crowd gathered in front of the family home. “Your eyes will see the victory soon. You will see the change. You will achieve your freedom… God, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the desecration of the occupiers,” Fathi said, according to footage.

Ra’ad Hazem, 29, from the Jenin area, the terrorist who carried out a deadly shooting at a Tel Aviv bar on April 7 2022. (Courtesy)

His son, Ra’ad Hazem, went on the run after killing three Israelis in his terror attack at the Ilka bar in Tel Aviv. He later was found hiding near a mosque in Jaffa after an hours-long manhunt involving hundreds of security officers. While initially raising his hands in surrender, Hazem reportedly then drew a gun and opened fire on the officers, who fired back and killed him.

According to Palestinian media, the troops in Jenin on Saturday gathered evidence from the Hazem family home and questioned other relatives at the scene. In addition to the searches, the Hazem family home was mapped out by troops ahead of a potential demolition.

Kan reported Saturday, without citing sources, that Israeli security forces believed that Hazem had planned to hide for about a week after the Tel Aviv terror attack and planned to carry out an additional assault on the first night of Passover, on Friday.

The three victims of a terror attack in Tel Aviv on April 7, 2022. From left: Tomer Morad, Eytam Magini and Barak Lufan. (Courtesy)

The Shin Bet security agency has said Hazem had “no clear organizational affiliation, no security background and no previous arrests.”

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