Jerusalem Shooter Was to Begin Prison Sentence for Assaulting Israeli Cop

According to Palestinian sources, the assailant - whose identity remains under gag order - was linked to the Mourabitoun, an outlawed Islamist group active at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. 'We're very proud of him and what he did,' daughter says.

The assailant behind the Jerusalem shooting attack during a prior arrest.
The assailant behind the Jerusalem shooting attack during a prior arrest. No credit

The assailant behind Sunday's Jerusalem shooting attack that left two dead was set to begin a four-month prison sentence for assaulting a police officer in Jerusalem's Old City, the Palestinian Ma'an news agency reported on Sunday.

According to Palestinian sources, the assailant - a 39-year-old resident of East Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood whose identity remains under gag order - was linked to the Mourabitoun, an outlawed Islamist group active at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Its members demonstrate on Temple Mount, known in Arabic as Haram al-Sharif, whenever Jews visit there.

After the attack, the shooter's daughter told Haaretz that she and her family were "very proud of him and what he did."

"He left us this morning, and we thought he was going to turn himself in because we knew he had been sentenced to four months... He bid me and my little sister and my brother farewell, and asked us to study well and to keep the faith and tradition, and to pray for him."

The shooter had served a year in prison for incitement on social media. In October 2014, he posted on his Facebook page: "Jerusalem is burning with a real intifada in every neighborhood. Without al-Aqsa there will be blood… you fools, al-Aqsa has men who will pay for it with their blood, the youths of Jerusalem who are taking part in the intifada, we must kiss the ground you walk on, lions of field."

In the Ma'an interview, the shooter said that he had been arrested in 2013 on suspicion of attacking a police officer and released a day later. The state indicted him to his surprise, according to the interview, and called him into court last year, and he was sentenced to four months in prison last month.

He noted that he had been arrested five times in the past two weeks, mainly for disrupting the peace. According to him, he was expelled from East Jerusalem for a month during the last arrest, and he was forbidden from entering the Al-Aqsa mosque for six months. Additionally, he was banned from leaving the country until the end of the year.

According to the report, he was to begin his sentence on Sunday morning. He asserted that the police warned him that if he wouldn't turn himself in that he would be arrested and could expect a longer time in custody, including administrative detention. Palestinians familiar with the assailant said that he was well-known in the Old City and in the Al-Aqsa compound, and that the Palestinian media was familiar with him.

Two days before the attack, the shooter posted on Facebook: "I will never miss anyone like I miss you (al-Aqsa) and I won't love anyone like I love you. They told me I would go to jail for four months for this love, and I said it's too short. My life and my money and all I have for you."

In the last two years, shooters in Jerusalem have used pistols and improvised guns. Sunday's shooting was the first time the shooter used a standard assault rifle – an M-16.