Halamish Terror Attack Signals New Escalation of Violence
JNS.org – A Palestinian terrorist fatally stabbed an Israeli father and two of his adult children on Friday night in the West Bank community of Halamish, amid escalating tension over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
The terror attack in Halamish came on the heels of a Palestinian-incited “day of rage,” in which riots erupted after Friday prayers in response to the installation of metal detectors at the entrance gates to the Temple Mount. Israel bolstered security at the holy site following the July 14 Arab terror attack that killed two Israeli Druze policemen.
Several hours before initiating Friday night’s attack, 19-year-old Palestinian terrorist, Omar al-Abed, wrote on Facebook: “There is no life after what is seen in [the Temple Mount compound’s] Al-Aqsa [mosque]. … All I have is a sharpened knife, and it responds to the call of Al-Aqsa…God will take revenge on you.”
According to Dan Diker, director of the Political Warfare project at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), the Jordanian-run Islamic Waqf– which administers the Temple Mount — is not “addressing Israel’s security needs,” which forced Israel to take unilateral action. Diker also criticized the Waqf for claiming that the installation of metal detectors was a humiliation for Muslims.
Waqf officials are “expressing their sense of humiliation from having to go through these unilaterally imposed Israeli security measures, and they see this as a fundamental breaking of the status quo,” Diker told JNS.org. He also noted that “if [Muslims] perceive that their Islamic sense of honor is being crossed, it is a very difficult challenge [for Israel] to confront and overcome.”
At the same time, Diker said that the current tension surrounding the Temple Mount “does not necessarily mean we are going towards a full-blown conflagration.” He added that a further escalation in violence is “not self-evident.”
‘Scenes of a bloodbath’
The three victims in Friday night’s Halamish terror attack were Yosef Salomon, 70, his daughter Chaya, 46, and his son Elad, 36. Yosef’s wife, Tova, 68, was wounded and rushed to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where she underwent surgery.
The Palestinian terrorist knocked on the family’s door and then burst into the home as they gathered around the table for a festive Shabbat meal, celebrating the birth of a new grandson. As Abed entered, armed with a knife, Elad’s wife rushed a group of children to safety in a nearby room, holding the door shut while calling the police. The terrorist stabbed four members of the family before a neighbor, who overheard screaming, ran over and shot him.
“The scenes of a bloodbath that greeted us when we arrived on Saturday evening at the Salomon home shocked us all to the core — even the most veteran ZAKA volunteers,” Yehuda Meshi Zahav, the chairman of the ZAKA emergency response group, told JNS.org. “It was painstaking work to gather up so much blood, but we were determined to finish so that the victims could be buried as soon as possible, in keeping with Jewish law.”
Israel takes ‘preventive efforts’ as tensions escalate
The Palestinian terrorist, who was treated at Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, is now in Israeli custody. He was arrested several months ago by Palestinian Authority security forces on suspicion of plotting terror attacks. An Israeli military official said that the terrorist’s parents were known supporters of Hamas.
Early Saturday morning, IDF troops raided the Abed family home in the village of Kaubar, searching for weapons and additional suspects. The IDF surveyed the home for demolition and arrested the terrorist’s brother — 21-year-old Monir al-Abed — on suspicion of aiding Omar in the attack.
The IDF and Israel’s Shin Bet security agency also arrested 29 Hamas members, including some of the terror group’s senior officials, in raids in the disputed territories.
“The wave of detentions…was part of the preventive efforts of the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces against the terrorist organizations, particularly during the past week and due to the tension surrounding the Temple Mount and the unrest in the area,” the Shin Bet said.
Deteriorating Israeli-Palestinian relations
When news of the Halamish terror attack reached Hamas-controlled Gaza, jubilant Palestinians took to the streets to celebrate and hand out candy. Hamas praised the “heroic” attack, while Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket at the Israeli city of Ashkelon early on Sunday morning. The rocket “exploded mid-air” and caused no injuries or damage, the IDF said.
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, announced the cancellation of security coordination with Israel as part of a general freeze in communication with the Jewish state. It was the first freeze of Israel-PA security cooperation announced by Abbas since he assumed office in 2005.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel will manage without coordinating security with the PA, and slammed Abbas for failing to condemn Friday night’s terror attack. “He’s not a partner, he’s not looking for peace,” Lieberman said of Abbas, according to Yedioth Ahronoth.
But others are hopeful the situation can be cooled down.
Regarding the current escalation of Palestinian violence, the JCPA’s Diker said: “Any time you have terror attacks against Israel, which puts Israel in the position of having to defend itself in terms of passive and active measures, it always looks like things are escalating.”
“We’ve learned from experience,” he said, “that these things don’t necessarily indicate that there’s going to be a major war.”