RAMALLAH: Palestinians have blamed Israeli aggression and apartheid policies — including its actions at Al-Aqsa Mosque — for Thursday night’s attack in Elad, which left three Israelis dead.
Witnesses to the attack said two assailants exited their car and struck passers-by with axes, leaving three dead and four wounded, before fleeing in the same vehicle.
Israelis authorities launched a major manhunt on Friday for the two Palestinians suspected of carrying out the murders, which followed violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. The suspects have been named as Assad Yussef Al-Rifai, 19, and Subhi Imad Abu Shukair, 20.
Palestinians have been angered by an increase in Jewish worshippers in Al-Aqsa, contravening the long-standing agreement that Jews can visit the area, but not pray there.
The attack in Elad was condemned by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who warned it could lead to further violence.
However, Hamas and another Palestinian armed group, Islamic Jihad, suggested the attack was an inevitable consequence of the unrest at Al-Aqsa.
“This operation demonstrates our people’s anger at the occupation’s attacks on holy sites,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said. “The storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque cannot go unpunished.”
Jenin Gov. Maj. Gen. Akram Rajoub also blamed Israeli policies for the killings. He told Arab News that the Israelis have a “rule of apartheid in which everything is theirs and they do not give the Palestinians anything. That is why a state of anger is generated among the Palestinians, who pay the price with their blood. Palestinians suffer because of a political crisis for which the shameless Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is responsible.
“All the attacks that happen against the Israelis are because of a lack of a political horizon and the occupation’s suppression of the Palestinians and the green light given to the settlers to attack the Palestinians under the protection of the Israeli army,” he continued.
The Israelis, he added, have tried to find a solution by tightening security, taking economic measures against the Palestinians, and stopping essential services to punish them, but nothing has succeeded.
“Therefore, what remains for them to try is a political solution that gives the Palestinians hope for a free future, and I am sure that it would succeed,” he said. “The problem is that the Israelis adopt every option that angers the Palestinian people and increases their suffering. The Israelis flee from every option that leads to creating security and stability for the Palestinian and Israeli sides.”
Abu Shukair’s grandfather, Subhi Sbeihat, who lives in Rummana, a village near Jenin, said his grandson, an electrical contractor, does not belong to any political organization, is “religiously committed to high morals” and is well-liked in the village.
However, he added, “like any Palestinian under occupation,” his grandson “could not bear the pressures and continuous aggression against Al-Aqsa and fellow Palestinians.”
His last contact with his grandson was on Thursday afternoon, he said, adding that his grandson had gone to Ramallah for Eid.
He claimed the Israeli police had arrested Abu Shukair’s father at his workplace in Jdeidet Al-Makr in Galilee at 4 a.m. on Friday.
Sbeihat also blamed Israel for the Elad attack and for other “operations” conducted by Palestinian youths, saying they were caused by “the crimes the state of Israel commits daily against the Palestinian people, and its incursions and violations in Al-Aqsa Mosque.”