A Palestinian man from East Jerusalem has been charged with premeditated murder after police suspect that he convinced Muhannad Halabi to stab and kill two Jewish men in Jerusalem’s Old City last month.
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Abed al-Aziz Meri from Abu Dis is suspected of convincing Halabi to die as a shahid (martyr) and obtaining the knife that was used to murder Aharon Bennett and Nehemia Lavi on October 3.
Jerusalem District prosecutors have filed murder charges against Meri, 21, at the city’s district court. Meri faces two charges of premeditated murder; one charge of attempted murder using objects for the purpose of committing a terror attack; possession of a knife; and other charges.
According to the charge sheet, Meri was active in Hamas and another outlawed organization.
For several years, he helped Palestinians without permits to enter Jerusalem. On Sunday October 2, Halabi allegedly asked Meri to help him enter Jerusalem so he could pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. They scaled the West Bank separation barrier and walked to the Old City. They tried entering the Temple Mount compound through two separate gates, but each time were stopped by Border Policemen.
According to the prosecution, Meri then incited Halabi to commit murder. Police say Halabi told Meri he felt humiliated after being refused entry to the mosque, and Meri then conceived the plan to murder Jews. He realized that his accomplice was not acting out of personal distress but out of a sense of anger at Jews, police said.
Meri allegedly acquired a knife for Halabi and convinced him to stab Jews with it. He told the 19-year-old Ramallah resident that he should die a martyr’s death and not be taken alive, police add. Halabi entered the Old City and committed the murders, also wounding Bennett’s wife Odel. In contrast to police claims right after the attack, the charge sheet says Halabi didn’t have time to use the gun he had grabbed from Lavi.
On October 4, Meri posted a photograph of himself and Halabi, taken just before the attack. The online post praised the assailant. The prosecution has requested that Meri be remanded until the end of legal proceedings.