Misbah Abu Sbeih, the perpetrator of the shooting attack in Jerusalem, confronting the Israeli security forces (mesh.hek Facebook page, October 9, 2016). The terrorist had an extensive history of incitement to violence and terrorism and confrontations with the Israeli security forces.
A car hit by the shooting near the National headquarters of the Israel Police in Jerusalem (Facebook page of Israel Police, October 9, 2016).
Police closing in on Misbah Abu Sbeih in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah (Al-Jazeera, October 9, 2016)
The terrorist’s car in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood (Nana 10, October 14, 2016, no credit)
Misbah Abu Sbeih detained by the Border Police in Jerusalem.
A party celebrating Misbah Abu Sbeih’s release from prison. Many Hamas flags were hoisted there (jerusalem1947.com, December 22, 2015).
Eiman Abu Sbeih, daughter of terrorist Misbah Abu Sbeih, praising her father for his terrorist attack (PALINFO, October 10, 2016)
The shooting attack in Jerusalem and its characteristics
1. On October 9, 2016, a shooting attack was carried out from a driving car in three different scenes in Jerusalem:
a. A car driven by a Palestinian terrorist arrived from the French Hill junction towards the light train stop at Ammunition Hill junction. Around the stop area, the terrorist started shooting at passengers who were waiting at the train stop. A woman was critically injured and later died of her wounds. Another man was moderately injured.
b. From there, the terrorist continued driving towards the National Headquarters of the Israel Police and shot at vehicles waiting at the junction. Due to the shooting, a traffic accident occurred at the spot.
c. The terrorist continued in the direction of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where he stopped his car at the side of the road. He was identified by two policemen riding a motorcycle. As they approached him, he opened fire. One of the policemen was critically wounded in the shooting and later died of his wounds. The other policeman was moderately injured. Another police force arriving at the site opened fire at the vehicle and killed the terrorist.
2. A woman and a policeman were killed in the attack. In addition, five people were wounded in the shooting. Two women were injured in the traffic accident that occurred as a result of the shooting, and three others were treated for shock.
3. An analysis of the shooting indicates several unique characteristics which are different from the familiar pattern of popular terrorism attacks during the recent year:
a. Modus operandi: It was a shooting attack which was more complex than other shooting attacks carried out during the recent year. The shooting was carried out from a driving car, which moved from one scene to another. The terrorist who carried out the attack was armed with an automatic gun, which he used to shoot to all directions in each one of the scenes.
b. The weapon: The attack was carried out with a standard M-16 automatic gun. Most of the shooting attacks as part of the popular terrorism were carried out through improvised weapons, mainly Karl Gustav (“Carlo”) sub-machine guns manufactured in Judea and Samaria. The use of a standard weapon required the perpetrator to acquire it prior to carrying out the attack. This may indicate that the attack was not spontaneous as most of the attacks characterizing popular terrorism during the recent year, but included preparations.
c. The profile of the perpetrator: The attack was carried out by an adult terrorist who openly identified with Hamas. It was not the result of a personal, spontaneous decision by young boys without an organizational affiliation, as were most of the attacks carried out as part of the popular terrorism. The motive for the attack was essentially religious, mainlythe identification with the Al-Aqsa Mosque, unlike most of the popular terrorism attacks during the recent year.
The profile of the perpetrator
4. Misbah Abu Sbeihcomes from a well-known, well-off family, originally from Hebron (the family is related to the Abu Sneina clan). During the years, part of the family went to live in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. Abu Sbeih's father settled in Al-Ram, North Jerusalem, and bought there a candy store, where Misbah used to work. As a child, Misbah Abu Sbeih was living in Al-Ram, however, after he married, he moved to the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Kafar Akeb.
5. Abu Sbeih’s profile is different from that of most of the perpetrators of terrorist attacks during the recent year:
a. The perpetrators ofpopular terrorism attacks during the recent year were mostly young boys, part of them school children and unemployed students or people with jobs unsuitable for their skills. They were without a clear-cut record of security offenses and without affiliation with terrorist organizations or outspoken identification with them. Most of the terrorist attacks they carried out were spontaneous and did not entail prior preparations.
b. In contrast to the above, Misbah Abu Sbeih was an adult, married and father of five, with a steady job at the family candy store. He publicly identified with Hamas and had a clear-cut record of confrontations with the Israeli security forces and incitement to violence and terrorism. Abu Sbeih had an Israeli blue ID card which granted him a resident’s status and facilitated his moves in Jerusalem. Advance preparations were apparently made for the attack, including the acquisition of a standard weapon.
6. Looking at his Facebook pages, it is evident that Misbah Abu Sbeih used to post many inciting posts of radical Islamic nature. Because of that he even served one year in prison and was supposed to serve four additional months of imprisonment (see below). A few hours after the terrorist attack in Jerusalem, a video was released showing Abu Sbeih reading his will. He stressed that a sacred duty is incumbent on the Muslim people to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. He wrote in his will that despite the “Zionist oppression,” the Palestinian people continues to stand fast and expressed his wish to give Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound back to the Palestinians (Al-Aqsa channel, October 9, 2016).
Right: Misbah Abu Sbeih with the Dome of the Rock in the background; the inscription above reads “Al-Aqsa Lion” (Facebook page of QudsN, October 9, 2016). Left: Misbah Abu Sbeih (middle) with his sons on Temple Mount (PALINFO Twitter page, October 10, 2016)
Activity identified with Hamas and radical Islam
7. Misbah Abu Sbeih openly identified with Hamas and this fact finds its expression over and over again on his Facebook page. He constantly praised Hamas and its terrorist attacks and had his picture taken on the background of a Hamas flag. He participated in the provocative activity of the radical Islamic Murabitun group, whose aim was to hinder visits of Israelis to the Temple Mount. Following the terrorist attack, Hamas released an announcement, according to which the shooting attack in Jerusalem had been carried out by one of its operatives.
8. The Murabitun and Murabitatare groups of men and women who used to launch violent activities on the Temple Mount compound to prevent Jews from visiting the compound. Those groups were handled by the Northern Faction of the Islamic Movement in Israel, a movement affiliated with Hamas, under the false slogan “The Al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger.” They were prominent in their provocative behavior and their confrontations with the Israeli security forces.
9. In September 2015, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon banned the activity of those groups. The defense minister’s office commented at the time that “the activities of the Murabitun and Murabitat “form a central component in the creation of tension and violence on the Temple Mount in particular, and Jerusalem in general.” It described them as engaging in “dangerous incitement against tourists, visitors, and worshipers on the Temple Mount, which leads to violence that could endanger lives.” (Ynet, NRG, Israeli Channel 10, September 9, 2015; see also the announcement by Israel’s prime minister’s office on banning the Northern Faction of the Islamic Movement, November 17, 2015).
Right: Misbah Abu Sbeih on the background of the Hamas flag (PALDF Twitter account, October 9, 2016). Left: Mourning poster issued by Hamas on Misbah Abu Sbeih’s death (PALINFO Twitter page, October 9, 2016)
10. Ever since the outbreak of the wave of popular terrorism about a year ago, Hamas is making efforts to fan the attacks in order to turn “popular terrorism” into organized military terrorism, with the use of firearms (“third Intifada”). These attempts, usually implemented by handling covert networks, failed in most cases mainly because of the effective counterterrorism and preventive measures of the Israeli security forces and the Palestinian Authority security services. However, Misbah Abu Sbeih’s behavior pattern is different from that of Hamas’s covert military networks that were uncovered in Judea and Samaria, since Abu Sbeih was acting publicly, and did not bother to hide his affiliation with Hamas and identification with the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The explosion on bus No. 12 in Jerusalem, carried out on Hamas’s instructions. Right: two buses in Jerusalem burning as a result of an IED explosion in the rear of one of them (Facebook page of Israel Fire and Rescue Services, Jerusalem District, April 18, 2016). Left: Hamas’s support rally for the terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria. A burned out model of a bus is on the stage, with the Temple Mount on the background. The sign reads, “The music of the Intifada” (MA’AN, April 28, 2016).
Abu Sbeih and his family’s security record
11. Misbah Abu Sbeih had an extensive history of confrontations with the Israeli security forcesand blatant incitement to violence and terrorism against Israel. During the recent years, he was arrested several times and served imprisonment punishments that ranged between one year and several months. In January 2015, he was charged with incitement to violence and terrorism on Facebook. He was convicted, served one year in prison, and was released on December 21, 2015. After his release, he was charged with the attack of a policeman, carried out in 2013. He was convicted in a plea bargain and was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment. Abu Sbeih was supposed to start serving his punishment in May 2016, but the punishment was deferred until after the month of Ramadan.
12. On October 8, 2016 (the day before the terrorist attack), a reporter for MA’AN News Agency held a telephone interview with Misbah Abu Sbeih. He told her on the interview that he was supposed to present himself for a four-month term of imprisonment in the Ramla prison on October 9, 2016. He said he was sentenced to imprisonment for beating a policeman in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Bab al-Huta (one of the neighborhoods of Old Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter) in 2013, however, the case was reopened (MA’AN News Agency, October 9, 2016). Therefore, on the morning of the attack, Abu Sbeih was supposed to present himself for the beginning of his imprisonment, yet instead, he carried out the shooting attack.
13. Eiman Abu Sbeih, his 17-year-old daughter, was released on October 16, 2016, after she had been arrested on October 10, 2016, for incitement. Eiman Abu Sbeih held an interview right after the attack carried out by her father in Jerusalem and praised his action: “I’m proud of what my father has done” (PALINFO, October 10, 2016).
14. It was reported that Misbah’s eldest son, 16-year-old Izz al-Din, was also arrested for incitement on Facebook. He spent eight months in prison. His twin brother Sbeih was also arrested, for 15 days (alwatanvoice.com, December 21, 2016).
Blatant, systematic incitement
15. Misbah Abu Sbeih engaged in systematic incitement activity, unusual in scope, on social media, especially on Facebook. He had a relatively large number of followers. His frequent arrests and the year he spent in prison did not deter him. He continued to incite violence and terrorism even after being released from prison, under a new nickname he adopted.
16. Misbah Abu Sbeih’s activity on Facebookcan be divided into two periods (for examples of posts on Facebook, see appendix):
a. First period – until the beginning of his sentence, January 2015: during this period, Misbah Abu Sbeih acted under his real name and uploaded to his Facebook page many blatant incitement contents. An examination of the charges against him and an analysis of posts on his Facebook page show that during 2014, at the time of the abduction and killing of the three youths from Gush Etzion and during Operation Protective Edge (June-July 2014), he uploaded posts preaching violence and terrorism against Israeli civilians and the Israeli security forces. His Facebook page included support and encouragement for the abduction, praise for Hamas and other terrorist organizations, and identification with the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks. His Facebook page had 2,703 friends and followers.
b. Second period – since the end of his sentence, December 2015: after his release from prison, Misbah Abu Sbeih opened a new Facebook page under the nickname Misbah Abu al-Izz. He was more cautious in wording the posts that he uploaded to his new Facebook page although the new page still included contents inciting violence and terrorism (praising shahids, mentioning that heaven awaits them; identification with the Al-Aqsa Mosque; calls to prevent Jews from entering the Temple Mount, identification with perpetrators of terrorist attacks, and more). Each post he uploaded received comments and was shared by hundreds of friends. Few hours after the attack in Jerusalem, Facebook management closed Misbah Abu Sbeih’s Facebook page because it contained many comments praising and justifying his action (Safa Twitter account, October 9, 2016).
Shooting attacks are not the type of action that characterizes popular terrorism, but they do occur from time to time. Most of the attacks during the recent year have been stabbing and vehicular attacks (about 83%), and about 10% were shooting attacks. In spite of their relatively low frequency, shooting attacks are most deadly.
See the ITIC's Information Bulletin dated April 14, 2016: “Seven Months of Popular Palestinian Terrorism – The Current Situation”.
In a meeting held by Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, on June 12, 2016, with the Murabitun, who allegedly had been pushed out by the IDF forces, he stressed the “important role played by the Murabitun in defending the holy sites”. He made clear that “our Palestinian people is in ribat [the Islamic front lines] and defending Jerusalem and the holy sites. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is a red line that cannot be crossed” (WAFA, June 12, 2016).
In a few cases, operatives who were handled by Hamas or were affiliated with it managed to carry out terrorist attacks. Prominent among them was the detonation of an IED on bus No. 12 in Jerusalem (April 18, 2016), where 21 passengers were injured. The investigation of the attack showed that a squad of six Hamas operatives, some of them having been imprisoned in Israel, were responsible for it. The squad was poised to perpetrate several terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and its environs. Among the attacks they planned were suicide bombing attacks, detonation of car bombs, and shooting attacks. In order to carry out the attacks, the squad recruited operatives. One of them was the terrorist, resident of Bethlehem, who carried out the bus attack, which was supposed to be a suicide bombing attack (Israel Security Agency’s spokesman’s office, May 29, 2016). The Hamas squad acted covertly, in stark contradiction to the public conduct of Misbah Abu Sbeih.