The father of one of the terrorists who opened fire at a high-end Tel Aviv food and retail center Wednesday says he still has trouble believing his son could be behind the attack that left four Israelis dead.
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“He never even spoke about the most recent [knife] Intifada,” says Ahmad Mahamra in the conservative Palestinian market town of Yatta, south of Hebron.
But even as he expressed disbelief, he absolved his son, Mohammed Ahmad Mahamra, whom he described as religious and uninvolved in politics, of blame. “Our conditions drove or motivated them to do these things,” he said.
Mohammed’s older brother Hussein Ahmad, meanwhile, praised the attack. “I’m very proud of what Muhammed did,” he said. “I know that my brother showed discipline.”
Mohammed Ahmad Mahamra and his cousin Khaled Mohammed Mahamra, of Yatta, shot and killed four Israelis at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv Wednesday night. They were both arrested by security forces at the scene of the attack.
The two cousins are members of the prominent Mahamra clan in the West Bank. One of their relatives is Khaled Mahamra, a Hamas member who was released in the 2011 Gilad Shalit deal and re-arrested after the kidnap and murder of the three Jewish youths in 2014.
Another, Mohammad’s uncle, is Taleb Mahamra, who was a commander in the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade, the military wing of Hamas. He is serving seven life sentences for an attack on Israeli soldiers, a crime for which Ahmad says their childhood home was razed by Israeli authorities.
Ahmad said he now expects their house in Raga, a neighborhood one kilometer north from the center of Yatta, to be demolished. “And I spent 30 years, hundreds of thousands of shekels building it.”
Mussa, Khaled’s father, says he is “in shock.”
“I do not believe what happened,” he said. “We are not criminals.”
“Yes, [Khaled] would talk about the occupation. If the occupation ends, then there’d be no troubles, no attacks,” said Mussa.
Mussa said he also is concerned his three-story family home near the center of Yatta will be razed, and he will no longer be permitted by Israeli authorities to travel into Jerusalem for medical treatment.
Khaled’s mother, Amal, sat sequestered upstairs, unwilling to talk. According to her sister, Hanan, “She’s very angry about what her two sons did. Now she’s left with one remaining son.”
His only brother, six-year-old Taki, ran away from the gaggle of incoming foreign journalists, huddling under the kitchen counter and shaking his head. His eight sisters also avoided the spotlight.
Khaled’s uncle, Ibrahim, condemned the attack. “We didn’t know it was Khaled when we turned on the television. Then, I saw the photos and said 'oh, it’s Khaled. How could he have done this?'
“How did this happen? We were all waiting for Khaled to return for iftar, [the evening meal].
“No one in the family is proud,” he said.
Outside the family, some locals expressed glee while others condemned the terror attack.
Muhammed Narwajja, 55, criticized the attack. “Here, people are upset and angry. It’s Ramadan. It’s not nice to have done this during Ramadan.”
But down the street, Waseen Shwaeen, 25, a taxi driver, chuckled at hearing news of the attack. “I’m happy,” he said. “The occupation after 50 years hasn’t ended. Get out. We are telling you to get out.”
Max Schindler is a freelance journalist based in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.