An Israeli has died and three others have been injured this Sunday in an unusual firearm attack by a Palestinian in the Old City of Jerusalem. The attacker, a resident of East Jerusalem affiliated with the Islamist Hamas party, opened fire after nine in the morning (eight o’clock, Spanish peninsular time) with a submachine gun in one of the entrances to the Esplanade of the Mosques, the third holy place of the Islam. He was shot dead by security forces in just half a minute as he prepared to empty the magazine. Another Israeli civilian was hospitalized in serious condition. The two remaining injured are agents of the Border Police, a militarized body, who suffered minor injuries.
The fatality was identified as Eliayahu Kay, 25, a Jewish immigrant of South African origin who worked for a religious foundation at the Western Wall, the main center of worship for Judaism near the site of the attack. The Israeli police sealed all the entrances to the historic walled compound of Jerusalem after the attack, the first with a firearm since the wave of violence that hit the Holy City last spring and that preceded an outbreak of war in the Gaza Strip.
The perpetrator of the attack has been identified as Fadi Abu Shejadam, 42, a resident of the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, a territory occupied by the Army in the Six Day War in 1967, and annexed by Israel since four decades ago. His body lay on the ground for a long time, France Presse reported.
Israeli Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev told the Hebrew press at the scene that Shejadam was affiliated with the Hamas political wing. It also specified that the attacker had disguised himself as an ultra-Orthodox Jew to commit the attack with a Beretta M12 submachine gun, a rare weapon among Palestinian militias.
His wife had fled Israel on a flight on Friday, allegedly to save herself from eventual retaliation. For Minister Bar-Lev, this is a clear indication that the attack was premeditated. Shejadam, a scholar of Islamic theology who taught classes on religious law and delivered sermons in mosques, had reposted on his Facebook page a comment written in 2014 about the mystical journey and ascension to heaven of the Prophet Muhammad since the current Esplanade of the Mosques of Jerusalem, according to Muslim tradition. “Allah presents us with our destiny,” he wrote.
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Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said in a statement that the attack was “a heroic operation” that was due to “a legitimate struggle.” However, he did not attribute it to his organization. “The Holy City will continue to fight until the foreign occupier is expelled and will not accept the hateful reality of the occupation,” he added. The United Kingdom declared illegal on Friday the political arm of Hamas, an organization considered terrorist by both the United States and the European Union, which has ruled de facto in the Gaza Strip since 2007.
The incident – recorded six months after the end of the last conflict in Gaza – occurred four days after a knife attack in the Old City against two police officers, who shot dead the attacker, a 16-year-old Palestinian. originally from Jerusalem. A few hours later, a young Palestinian from the West Bank was arrested in Jaffa (south of Tel Aviv), accused of stabbing an Israeli.
Between 2015 and 2016, a wave of violence called the “intifada of the knives” caused dozens of deaths of Israelis and almost three hundred Palestinians, mostly attackers who were killed by the security forces. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Benett has ordered the reinforcement of the security deployment in Jerusalem to prevent “copycat attacks” after the upcoming start of the Jewish holidays of Hanukkah or Lights.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.