Mayor of Palestinian Assailant's Hometown Accuses Israel of 'Collective Punishment'

Following attack that killed three Israelis, Beit Surik Mayor Ahmed Jamal says Israeli forces blocked both entrances to the village and forbade anyone from leaving

Israeli forces surrounding the house of a Palestinian attacker who killed three Israelis, in the West Bank village of Beit Surik, September 26, 2017.
ABBAS MOMANI/AFP

The mayor of the hometown of the Palestinian assailant who killed three Israelis on Tuesday near a West Bank settlement has accused Israel of “collective punishment” against the town.

“Apparently, we’re at the beginning of a process of collective punishment, and this will only increase the tension,” Beit Surik Mayor Ahmed Jamal said, noting that the Israeli army had blocked both entrances to the village shortly after the attack and wasn’t allowing anyone to leave.

Following Tuesday's attack, the Israeli military arrested three Palestinians in Beit Sourik, a West Bank village near Har Adar, where that attack took place. The three were detained in connection to the attack.

Jamal said that the assailant, Nimr Jamal, shares his home with two brothers, and therefore he doesn’t understand Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s threat to demolish the house, as there are no grounds for punishing the brothers.

Though several Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, praised the attack, Jamal wasn’t known to be active in any of these groups. He was more interested in sports and bodybuilding. Moreover, he worked in construction and earned a very good living.

Several people in Beit Surik denied the widespread reports that Nimr Jamal was separated from his wife and had a rocky relationship with her. They said the two had a good relationship and weren’t separated, adding that Jamal adored his children and loved hiking with them.

Israeli soldiers arrest the brother of Palestinian gunman Nimr Jamal near the West Bank City of Ramallah September 26, 2017.
AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

Moussa Ahmed Jamal, Nimr’s uncle, indignantly refused to believe that his nephew perpetrated the attack, but said that if he did, it certainly wasn’t due to any problems with his wife. He said the wife had gone to Jordan to visit relatives “because of a personal and family crisis, but there was no personal quarrel, and Nimr was a calm, polite boy who wasn’t looking for conflict with anyone. 

“The only motive for what he did, in my opinion, is pressure over the situation in the territory,” Moussa Jamal added. “The entire Palestinian people is under pressure, and incidents like this can happen at any moment.”

He confirmed that Jamal’s two brothers and a cousin had been arrested by the security services.

Jamal, a 37-year-old father of four, had significant personal and family problems including domestic violence. His wife had fled to Jordan recently and left him with his children, the Shin Bet security services said.

In a message he asked his wife to post on Facebook, Mahmoud asked for her forgiveness, writing that he understands the gravity of what he was about to and asked her to take care of their children.  

The attack will likely prompt the Shin Bet security service to reevaluate its process of vetting Palestinians who apply for work permits and reopen the larger political discussion of Israel's policy granting work permits to Palestinians who seek jobs in Israel and in West Bank Jewish settlements