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Nazareth official calls Islamic Jihad gunman killed in shootout with IDF a ‘martyr’

Deputy mayor of northern Israeli city said to be relative of Ahmed Saadi, who died in a Saturday gun battle with Israeli security forces in Jenin

Mourners carry the body of Islamic Jihad member Ahmed as-Saadi, who was killed during a gun battle with Israeli troops in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, on April 9, 2022. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)
Mourners carry the body of Islamic Jihad member Ahmed as-Saadi, who was killed during a gun battle with Israeli troops in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, on April 9, 2022. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

The deputy mayor of the northern Israeli city of Nazareth called a Palestinian Islamic Jihad gunman killed in a gun battle with Israeli troops in Jenin on Saturday morning a “martyr” in a since-deleted post on social media that sparked an outcry.

In the Facebook post, Samir Saadi sent condolences to the family of Ahmed Saadi, writing that he hoped “Allah would welcome him among the martyrs and the righteous,” according to a translation by Haaretz. The Kan public broadcaster indicated that the two are relatives. In his post, the deputy mayor addressed the “cousins in the [refugee] camp Jenin.”

The post was picked up by Hebrew-language media and received harsh criticism from right-wing lawmakers, after which it was erased.

Saadi was killed Saturday in a shootout with Israeli security forces during a military operation to raid the Jenin home of the Palestinian terrorist who carried out the deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv on Thursday night, killing three people and wounding at least 10.

The Israel Defense Forces said Palestinian gunmen opened fire toward troops operating in Jenin and other nearby villages. In footage posted online, heavy gunfire was heard in the area. The IDF said there were no Israeli casualties.

According to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry, one Palestinian was killed and at least 13 others were wounded in the clashes. The fatality was later identified by Palestinian authorities as Saadi, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad gunman from the Jenin refugee camp. His M16 rifle was seized by IDF troops.

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

According to reports, the military sought to arrest the father of Ra’ad Hazem, the 29-year-old terrorist who killed three people when he opened fire at a Tel Aviv bar on Thursday evening, but he was not home at the time of the operation.

Hazem’s father, Fathi, is a former security prisoner who previously served as an officer in the Palestinian Authority’s security services in Jenin. He has refused an Israeli request to be questioned.

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.

Hazem went on the run after the attack and 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 the Palestinian reports, the troops in Jenin on Saturday gathered evidence from the Hazem family home and questioned others relatives at the scene.

The reports said that relatives of Hazem are suspected of assisting him in preparations for the attack as well as helping him carry it out.

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

In addition to the searches, the Hazem family home was mapped out by troops ahead of a potential demolition. Israel demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly terror attacks as a matter of policy. The efficacy of the policy is controversial even within the Israeli security services and human rights activists have denounced it as unfair collective punishment.

Jenin is widely seen as a hotbed of terrorist activity. The gunmen who carried out the deadly attacks in Bnei Brak last month and Tel Aviv on Thursday both came from the Jenin area.

According to Palestinian media reports, the terrorist’s family has two houses in the area — one in the Jenin refugee camp and another in the village of Deir Ghazaleh.

The raids came hours after Israel Defense Forces chief Aviv Kohavi said the military will ramp up activities in the northern West Bank, following several deadly terror incidents involving Palestinians from the Jenin region and as officials reportedly believe the Palestinian Authority is losing control of the area.

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