Mahmoud Abbas breaks silence to condemn Bnei Brak attack

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas issued a rare condemnation of the attack that killed five people in Bnei Brak on Tuesday evening, despite dozens of Palestinians showing their support for the terrorist in his West Bank hometown.

In a statement, the PA chief “expressed his condemnation of the killing of Israeli civilians tonight, stressing that the killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians only leads to a worsening of the situation.”

Over the past week, 11 Israelis have died in deadly attacks by Israeli and Palestinian Arabs across the country. While Ramallah’s rivals, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, cheered the killings, Abbas remained silent until Tuesday’s attack.

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Earlier Tuesday evening, a Palestinian sniper opened fire on Israelis in Bnei Brak, east of Tel Aviv. Five Israelis were killed, including a police officer who died from his injuries in the shootout in which the terrorist was killed.

The shooter was identified as Diaa Hamarsheh, a 26-year-old resident of Yaabad, near Jenin in the West Bank, who was in Israel illegally. Hamarsheh was sentenced to one and a half years in prison in Israel in 2013 for security violations. Police also arrested a number of suspected accomplices.

Ramallah has refrained from publicly discussing the escalating wave of terror against Israelis, remaining silent during the deadly attacks in Beersheba last Tuesday and Hadera on Sunday. Polls consistently show that much of Palestinian public opinion considers “armed struggle” against Israel to be legitimate.

Israeli police and first responders at the site of a deadly terrorist attack in Bnei Brak on March 29, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

“The cycle of violence shows that a comprehensive, just and stable peace is the shortest and most correct path to security and stability for both peoples,” Abbas added.

Abbas recalled that the holy month of Ramadan is approaching, as well as Jewish and Christian holidays. Officials and analysts have been warning for months that the coincidence of the main religious holidays of the three religions in the coming weeks could provoke violence.

“We are all striving to stabilize the situation,” Abbas said.

Pro-Hamas news sites have circulated videos of what they say are Ya’abad residents gathered near Hamarshe’s house to show solidarity with the dead terrorist.

“Millions of martyrs are marching towards Jerusalem,” chanted the inhabitants of the city, judging by the footage.

Palestinian terrorist groups praised the deadly shooting, although none claimed responsibility for the massacre.

“The operation in Tel Aviv underscores the unity of the Palestinian people wherever they live,” Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri told Al-Aqsa TV, a channel linked to the terrorist group.

The attack came as Israeli security forces were already on high alert ahead of Ramadan.

On Sunday, in Hadera, in northern Israel, two Israeli police officers were killed in a gun battle claimed by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist organization. Israeli police identified the attackers, who were shot dead, as fighters from the Israeli Arab organization ISIS.

On March 22, in Beersheba (south), four Israelis – two men and two women – were killed in a knife and battering ram attack by a man inspired by the ideology of the IS group. The terrorist was a teacher sentenced in 2016 to four years in prison for planning a trip to Syria to fight with ISIS and preaching his apology.

In total, eleven people became victims of terrorism in one week, the highest number since 2006, when 11 Israelis were killed in a suicide bombing on a bus in Tel Aviv.

The number of victims this week is higher than in 2020 and 2021 combined.

The PA head also warned that this “terrible incident” could provoke Israeli attacks on Palestinian revenge. The recent terrorist attacks against Israelis have been followed by alleged hate crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank.

After the Hadera bombing, Palestinians in the West Bank town of Jammain on Thursday morning found their town the target of an apparent hate crime and an alleged attempt to burn down a mosque.

The phrase “We Jews will not be silent when we are killed” and a Star of David were painted on a nearby wall, according to footage from the scene.

The mosque was slightly damaged during the arson attempt.

Leading Arab politicians also condemned Tuesday night’s attack, including Joint List leader Ayman Ouda and party leader Raam Mansour Abbas. The latter, whose party is part of the ruling coalition, condemned “a heinous and vile terrorist crime against innocent civilians.”

MK Mansour Abbas, leader of the Islamist Raam party, speaks at a plenum in the Knesset meeting room in Jerusalem, January 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I join the pain of relatives and wish the victims a full recovery. We are all facing a wave of deadly terrorism – all of us without exception,” Abbas said in a statement.

“The streets of Israeli cities are filled with Arab and Jewish citizens, and those who carry out the killings do not notice them and do not distinguish between them,” he said.

The policeman killed in the attack was a Christian Arab.

“We will not stop at a simple condemnation, because terrorism does not stop and does not lower its head. We are determined to follow a peaceful path, despite all the extremists,” said Mansour Abbas.

Ode also condemned the attacks. But he compared the Israelis killed in Bnei Brak to the Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli forces.

“Today, five civilians were killed – each is a separate world. They join the 51 Palestinians killed this year – each of them represents a separate world,” Odeh said.

“I strongly oppose any attack on civilians, whether Palestinian or Israeli, and any attack on innocent people,” he added.

“The time has come to put an end to the source of hatred that is this damned occupation and establish a peace that will bring security and normalcy to both peoples,” he said.

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