Israel seeks revenge after Palestinian kills 5 near Tel Aviv

The family home of Dia Hamarsheh who carried out a shooting attack in Bnei Brak, during a raid by Israeli occupation soldiers in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on 30 March 2022.

Ahmed Ibrahim APA images

Five people were killed by a Palestinian gunman in the third such incident in recent days in Israel.

On Tuesday evening, Dia Hamarsheh opened fire in two different areas of Bnei Brak, a Tel Aviv suburb.

Using an assault weapon, Hamarsheh is alleged to have fired at a man inside a convenience store, who fled to a nearby building, Tel Aviv daily Haaretz reported.

He then fired at a man riding a motorcycle but missed. He also shot at a car, killing its driver.

The Israeli police said Hamarsheh was killed by one of its officers, Amir Khoury, who was called to the scene. Khoury was fatally wounded by the gunman.

The four others killed were reportedly civilians. They include 29-year-old Avishai Yehezkel and 36-year-old Yaakov Shalom, as well as two Ukrainian nationals whose names have not yet been released, the Ukrainian embassy in Israel confirmed.

An Israeli woman described to reporters how she saw a black car stop and two men exit the vehicle. She said one of them told her and another woman with a child to stay away from the scene, in an apparent attempt to avoid targeting women and children.

Hamarsheh, a 26-year-old from the occupied West Bank town of Yabad near Jenin, was in Israel reportedly without a permit.

Hamarsheh was reportedly affiliated with Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority, during his previous imprisonment in Israeli jails.

However, according to Haaretz, “security sources are not associating Tuesday’s attack with the organization.”

Rather, Israeli authorities “believe that he was inspired by last week’s attacks in Israel and was not backed by any specific organization,” the Israeli newspaper added.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, scores of Israelis took to the streets in Bnei Brak chanting “death to the Arabs,” sparking fears of revenge attacks among Palestinian laborers.

The morning after, Palestinian workers in the neighborhood were reportedly harassed and assaulted by groups of Jewish youths.

Obscuring motivations

Israel’s security apparatus raised its alert states to the highest level.

The last time it was this high was during last May’s uprising across historic Palestine, when the Israeli military carried out an 11-day killing spree in the besieged Gaza Strip and across the occupied West Bank.

In Gaza alone, more than 250 Palestinians were killed, including at least 67 children. Israel obliterated entire families in their homes.

That slaughter was carried out under the authority and instructions of Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz, who visited King Abdullah of Jordan in Amman on Tuesday to discuss possible unrest during Ramadan, which begins next week.

Jordan bills itself as the custodian of Jerusalem’s holy sites. It was towards the end of Ramadan last year that the Palestinian uprising began, sparked by Israel’s intensified moves to ethnically cleanse Palestinian familes in occupied East Jerusalem.

The monarch hosted Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Amman on Wednesday in a rare public meeting between Israeli and Jordanian heads of state.
King Abdullah reportedly condemned the killings carried out by Hamarsheh the previous day.

Recent attacks in Israel have been linked by Israeli authorities to the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, or have been called copycat attacks by analysts.

It is unclear what evidence Israel has for such ISIS connections, but this could be a means to tar all Palestinian resistance.

These claims should, however, be viewed with skepticism.

A Bedouin citizen was previously killed by Israeli police in 2017, and then framed as an ISIS supporter.

This turned out to be false.

In 2020, then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to the man’s family for the baseless claim that he was involved with ISIS.

Moreover, ISIS, which is also sometimes known by its Arabic acronym Daesh, has little history of anything more than rhetorical hostility towards Israel. Indeed, the self-proclaimed Jewish state and the self-proclaimed Islamic State have appeared to tacitly collude, based on their mutual hostility towards the Syrian government.

In 2017, Moshe Yaalon, formerly Israel’s defense minister, revealed that ISIS fighters in Syria’s Golan Heights had attacked an Israeli unit and then apologized to Israel.

“There was one case recently where Daesh opened fire and apologized,” Yaalon stated, in reference to an incident Israeli media said occurred in November 2016.

The Jerusalem Post, a right-wing Israeli newspaper, has also cast doubt on claims by ISIS that it was involved in Sunday’s shooting in Hadera that killed two members of Israel’s paramilitary Border Police.

“Claims like this require more confirmation because ISIS or ISIS-affiliated networks often claim responsibility for attacks they had no role in or that they merely inspired,” the newspaper stated.

“Psychological pressure”

The more obvious motivation, and the one Hamarsheh’s father suggested to local media, is that his son was likely motivated by oppressive life under Israeli military occupation.

“In the end, his actions did not come out of nowhere,” Hamarsheh’s father said.

“Clearly, he was under a lot of psychological pressure as a result of the situation we are in and the siege that we are living under,” he added.

“The siege, the hard life, the daily killings, the news that we hear. This suffocates the youth. It makes things spiral out of control, like what happened to him.”

The father of Dia Hamarsheh who carried out a shooting attack in Bnei Brak in Israel, stands outside his house during a raid by Israeli occupation soldiers in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on 30 March 2022. 

Ahmed Ibrahim APA images

Following the attack, Israeli occupation forces raided the Hamarsheh family home and arrested and interrogated family members.

Hamarsheh’s father said that during the raid, occupation soldiers “tortured” his other son, but he was told by Israeli officers not to interfere.

Israeli forces also measured the house in preparation to demolish it.

Such punitive home demolitions, which Israel only uses against Palestinians and never against Jews, are a form of collective punishment – a war crime.

His father said that his son lived on the third floor of the building with his brother, but that occupation forces want to demolish the family home as well because his son used to visit it.

“Suppose he does come to the home, you want to demolish my home?” The father said.

“He also walks in the street, how about you go dig in the street where he walks. If he enters an institution, go demolish it too. This is unreasonable.”

Ali Abunimah contributed analysis.


Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.