Quiet suburb reels from a brutal killing spree as Israel hit by wave of terror

Bnei Brak is a community in mourning after this week's attack


A flag-drapped mourner attends the funeral of Yaakov Shalom, one of the five people killed in yesterdays shooting attack in the religious town of Bnei Brak, at the Yarkon cemetery in the Israeli city of Petah Tikva on March 30, 2022. - Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned of a "wave of murderous Arab terrorism" ahead of funerals for two of five people killed in a shooting rampage in the ultra-religious Jewish town. The shooting in Bnei Brak, a coastal town outside Tel Aviv, of four civilians and a police officer was the third fatal gun or knife attack in the Jewish state in the past week. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP) (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Trembling with shock, Anant stands at the site of the terror attack that took place on Tuesday night in the Israeli city of Bnei Brak. 

Today, life does not feel secure. “The sound of the gunshots still echoes in my mind,” the local resident told the JC. “Our home is supposed to be the safest place.”

The idea that a quiet side road deep in the heart of Tel Aviv’s Charedi community would become the site of a brutal terror attack had been unimaginable to the area’s residents, some of whom gathered on Wednesday at the scene of the atrocity to mourn and rail against the government.

Diaa Hamarsheh, a 27-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank, drove and walked through the densely packed suburb on Tuesday night, gunning down four civilians, including two Ukrainian immigrants.

After six minutes of terror, Amir Khoury, 32, an Arab Christian policeman, engaged him in a shoot-out and killed the attacker, before succumbing to wounds he sustained in the fight.

The Bnei Brak assault was merely one horrific chapter in a terrifying week of terror for Israel that left 11 dead, six of whom were murdered by Palestinian affiliates of Isis.  

The succession of ISIS-linked attacks prompted former Mossad head Efraim Halevy to speculate: “We might be in the first phase of a new operation of a terror group targeting Israel.”

Security officials said Bnei Brak terrorist Hamarsheh, 26, was a Palestinian living illegally in the town of Ya’bad near Jenin in the West Bank. There were celebrations outside his family home and across Jenin following the attack.  

Hamarsheh arrived in Bnei Brak in a car at 7.56pm on Tuesday night and got out on Jabotinsky Street. Pulling out a weapon, he fired indiscriminately at the crowd before moving into a second street where he shot dead two people outside a grocery store. 

The killer’s gun briefly jammed before he pointed it at a passing car, shouting at the driver to stop before firing at close range.  He killed father-of-four Ya’akov Shalom, who was driving home to his family.  Charedi media reported he was the son of Rabbi Meir Shalom, a prominent member of the local Yemenite community who died last year from Covid.  

Six minutes into the killing spree, Hamarsheh moved onto Herzl Street, shooting dead 29-year-old student Avishai Yehezkel, who was taking his two-year-old son for a walk in his stroller.  He died shielding his child from the gun blast and is survived by his son and his wife, who is eight months pregnant.  His brother Ovadia said he was a “special person”.     

Hamarsheh was then confronted by two officers on motorbikes.  In an exchange of fire, he shot police officer 32-year-old Amir Khoury, a Christian Israeli Arab citizen, before being shot and killed.     

Mr Khoury, from the northern town of Nof Hagalil, died later at Beilinson Medical Centre from his wounds.   He is survived by his wife and two sisters. 

He was hailed as a hero by Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai at his funeral.  He told Mr Khoury’s father Jarris: “Alongside the tragedy, it is important for me to tell you that your son saved the lives of many civilians.    His actions will become a legacy and memory of heroism for the whole country.” 

 Also killed on the street were two Ukrainian immigrants; Victor Sorokopot, 38, and Dimitri Mitrik, 23. The men were not Jewish but had lived in Israel for several years. 

Earlier in the day Israeli security services raided the homes of 12 Arab citizens and arrested two suspected of having ties to the Islamic State group. Shortly before the raid, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the recent assaults marked a “new situation” that required tougher security measures.   Israel is now on its highest level of security since the 11 day conflict with Gaza last May. 

The Prime Minister said: “Israel is facing a wave of murderous Arab terrorism.   The security forces are at work. We will fight terrorism with persistence, diligence and an iron fist.” 

 The latest killings, hailed as a “heroic operation” by Hamas, followed two similar attacks carried out by Arab Israeli citizens who were supporters of Islamic State, according to authorities.  

 A week before the Bnei Brak atrocity, an Isis supporter killed four Israeli civilians in the southern city of Beersheva before he was shot dead by a passer-by.      

 The terrorist stabbed a woman at a petrol station before hitting a cyclist with his car, named as Rabbi Moshe Kravitzky, a Chabad emissary and minister in the Nachal Beka area of the city.  He then got out and stabbed a man and woman.  

The victims were named as 67-year-old Menachem Yehezkel, mother-of-three Laura Yitzhak, killed on her way to meet her husband after work, and mother-of-three Doris Yahbas.  She was aunt to one of the paramedics who responded to the attack. 

 The attacker was named as Mohammad Ghaleb Abu al-Qi’an.  In 2016 he was sentenced to four years in prison for affiliation with Isis and for attempting to recruit others to the jihadist group.  

Five days after the Beersheva attack, cousins Ibrahim and Ayman Agrabia struck in the northern city of Hadera, killing 19-year-old Border Police officers Yezen Falah and Shirel Abukarat.       

 Officer Falah lived in the Druze village of Kisra-Sumei in Galilee and only joined the Border Police a year ago, while Officer Abukarat, who lived in Netanya, joined just six months ago. A Border Police statement said the men “fought with bravery” and “saved many lives”.  

 Isis claimed responsibility for the attack which saw the terrorists, both dressed in white, open fire on officers waiting at a bus stop and passers-by before being shot dead by undercover police who had been eating at a nearby restaurant.  

 Security forces carried out a number of arrests in the Arab city of Umm el-Fahm near Hadera following the attack, including the brother of one of the terrorists and four others detained on suspicion of being members of an Isis cell in the city. It was reported the brother of one of the terrorists was himself a police officer.

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