Family of Jerusalem Light Rail Attacker Insists He Lost Control of Car

Though Silwan residents say Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi joined Hamas in prison, family says attacker who drove into light rail station, killing a baby and injuring seven adults, was politically unaffiliated.

Jack Khoury
Nir Hasson
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The grandmother of Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi holds his picture as she sits with other relatives outside their home in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan October 23, 2014. Credit: Reuters
Jack Khoury
Nir Hasson

Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi’s family members continued to insist Thursday that he lost control of his car and did not deliberately drive it into passengers getting off the Jerusalem light rail on Wednesday. In the crash, Haya Zissel Brown, 3 months old, was killed and seven adults were injured. Afterward, Shaludi tried to run away and was shot to death by a policeman.

Hamas and other Palestinian organizations have praised Shaludi’s act as a heroic blow against Israel, and some residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where the family lives, said Abdel Rahman had affiliated himself with Hamas during and after his 14-month prison sentence on security-related offenses. However, his cousin Abed al-Shaludi said Abdel Rahman, 21, was not connected with Hamas or any political group.

“Since the war in Gaza everybody identifies with Hamas. That doesn’t make him a terrorist,” the cousin said.

Other family members said the Shaludis do not support Hamas or terrorism, even though Abdel Rahman’s uncle, Mohiyedine Sharif, was a senior Hamas military figure. Sharif was killed in a car explosion in 1998, which Hamas blamed on rival Palestinian Authority security forces.

Family members said Shaludi had been frustrated in recent months, having been unable to find a job. His cousin said he was showing the effects of his prison sentence, and had “lost himself,” but that he did not seem capable of committing a desperate, suicidal act of terror.

The cousin said he was told by Shaludi’s mother that Shaludi had been in his room on Wednesday reading the Koran. At one point he said he did not feel well and she took him to a doctor at a health clinic, then they returned home and Shaludi went back into his room to sleep. Less than an hour later, when his mother heard about her son’s involvement in the collision with the light rail, she was unaware he had left the house. She ran into his room and saw he was gone, Abed al-Shaludi said, recounting what he said the mother had told him.

He went on to say that the family has yet to receive Abdel Rahman’s body, and fears that Israel is stalling, waiting to deliver his body late at night to prevent a large funeral. “We believe that he was shot and killed in cold blood and there was no attempt to question him, and hear his side of the story, and that he deserves a funeral like everyone else,” said the cousin.

He added that while residents in Silwan are frustrated and angry over their treatment at the hands of Israel, he doubted that this explained Abdel Rahman’s actions.

“Every day the police come in and make arrests, settlers come every day and stand next to ruins, demolition orders haunt everyone, and all this makes for a desperate and frustrated environment. I don’t know if Abdel Rahman took it too far, but I still believe that he had an accident. If he wanted to carry out an attack, why did he wait until he got there? The videos don’t show that it was definitely an attack, and he might have lost control of his vehicle. For the Israelis, that’s an attack, and they shoot him to death,” said the cousin.

A Facebook page published shortly after the fatal crash contained a picture of Abdel Rahman next to a picture of Inas Shawkat Khalil, a young Palestinian girl who was run over on Route 60 north of Ramallah a few days ago.

“Inas screamed, and Rahman answered,” wrote senior Hamas official Hussam Badran, who lives in Qatar, and who called Shaludi’s act one of heroism. “Those who thought that West Bank residents had abandoned the struggle are wrong, and Shaludi is continuing on in the path of his uncle, Mohiyedine Sharif,” wrote Badran.

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