Mazen Aribe, a Palestinian terrorist killed last Thursday while carrying out a shooting attack near Jerusalem, is a relative of senior Palestinian Authority official Saeb Erekat, Palestinian sources told The Times of Israel on Monday.
Erekat drew the ire of Israeli officials when he was seen in photos published in Palestinian media paying a condolence visit to Aribe’s family on Saturday.
In images posted by the Palestinian Alawael News Agency, Erekat, a top aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, was pictured alongside the governor of Jericho and other local Fatah officials sitting with the family of Aribe and offering their condolences.
According to Alawael, during the visit Erekat stressed the Palestinians’ right to resist Israel until they achieve their own state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Aribe, an officer in the PA’s security services, shot an Israeli soldier and bystander in an attack near the Hizme checkpoint Thursday. He was killed by forces at the scene. His two victims suffered light to moderate injuries.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting that Erekat, instead of condemning such attacks, had praised the perpetrators, which “gives backing and encouragement to acts of terror.”
Israel sees PA silence on the wave of terror and violence over the last several months as a sign of tacit support for the attacks. Officials, including Netanyahu, have accused Ramallah of inciting violence.
Israeli PM spokesman Ofir Gendelman tweeted on Saturday that the Erekat condolence visit shows the “PA’s clear support for attacks on Israelis.”
A later tweet shows pictures depicting Aribe’s body carried by PA security forces in what he described as a “military funeral” procession.
Erekat said in response he would continue to back Aribe.
“I am honored to offer my condolences… on the martyrdom of our son Mazen.”
But on Monday, Palestinian Authority sources seemed to backtrack on Erekat’s previous statements, saying Erekat’s visit to the Aribe family home was not an ideological statement, but a simple act of consoling members of his extended family.
It did not reflect support for Aribe’s actions, the sources said.
Representatives of the Middle East Quartet are slated to arrive in Israel this week for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials in a bid to calm recent violence and help renew stalled peace talks.
Aribe was not the first in his family to carry out terror attacks against Israel.
His father served jail time for a knife attack against Israelis in 1992. And last Wednesday was the anniversary of the death of his nephew, who was killed while carrying out a stabbing attack in 2002.