Abu Ashraf, father of the 16-year-old Palestinian who allegedly stabbed an Israel Defense Forces soldier to death on Tuesday, said he did not know how to respond to the telephone call he received in the afternoon. “Your son was involved in a stabbing attack targeting a soldier,” he was told on the phone, and he says he became hysterical. Abu Ashraf was asked to go to Qalqilyah to cooperate with the investigation.
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“I got there as fast as I could. When I went inside, someone kicked me, and I didn’t understand what they wanted from me. Then they asked that I bring my children for questioning, and asked me about my son. Then they released me. Even now I don’t believe what happened, I don’t know how my son did this,” Abu Ashraf told Haaretz.
Police say the boy carried out the attack for nationalistic motives, to take revenge for two extended family members currently imprisoned in Israeli jails. The two relatives were given life sentences in 2003 and 2004 for murder and attempted murder during the second intifada.
According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, the two prisoners were associated with Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which carried out numerous lethal attacks on Israelis in the northern West Bank during the second intifada.
Abu Ashraf lives with his family in a small, poor West Bank village of about 1,000 residents called Bir al-Basha, about eight kilometers south of Jenin, along the Jenin-Nablus road, which cuts the village in two. Most of the residents try to make a living by farming or construction. Abu Ashraf used to have permission to work in Israel, but it was revoked years ago.
A dirt road leads to the unkempt two-story home where Abu Ashraf lives with his family. His wife was hysterical. Another son, 17, was in the house. Five other sons and six daughters had left the house in fear of being arrested. The mother did not understand what had happened, and was surprised when soldiers surrounded her house and conducted a comprehensive search, confiscating a computer and other items as other village residents watched.
Most of the villagers are from the same extended family, and everyone knows each other well. Throughout Bir al-Basha, and in Abu Ashraf’s home, Palestinian flags are hanging, left over from the recent ninth anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death.
Abu Ashraf said he was even more hysterical when he arrived home and spoke to his family. “I haven’t seen my son in almost a month. We’re used to him leaving for months at a time for work. The last time I saw him was during the holiday vacation, he came home for a few days, but then left again to work in Israel. I didn’t know where he was exactly; all we knew was that he was working in Israel. He would call us sometimes, to ask how we were doing.”
Village residents say the young man worked in a few odd jobs, mainly in agriculture and dairy farming in northern Israel. Like many young Palestinians, he did not have a permit to be in Israel and worked there illegally, and his family had a hard time keeping track of him.
Another of the young man’s brothers is serving two years in an Israeli jail for disturbing the peace. One of his family members said “he was not involved at all in political matters, and he didn’t show any interest in politics. We didn’t think he was affected at all by his cousins in jail. We are simple people who want to work and make a living, and want to be far away from violence and problems. We don’t know what he was exposed to, and why he decided to do this, and what happened during those few moments on the bus. We don’t know if he got on the bus with a plan, or something happened during the ride.”