On March 29, 2022, a Palestinian armed with an M-16 assault rifle drove a vehicle with Israeli license plates through one of the gaps in the security fence and from there to Bnei Brak in central Israel, where he went on a killing spree. On Jabotinsky Street he entered and exited an apartment house. He then entered the building next door, where two stores were located. When he found them empty, he loaded his gun and went out into the street, shooting at a child riding a bicycle and a passerby, missing both times. He walked to nearby Bialik Street, which runs perpendicular to Jabotinsky, and shot out windows. He kept walking, and shot and killed two people who were standing near the entrance to a grocery store. Then he shot and killed a man driving a car. From there he walked to Herzl Street, which runs parallel to Bialik, where he shot at a man walking with his infant son, and ran to the next street where he came face to face with two policemen on a motorcycle who had been dispatched to the site. In the ensuing exchange of fire one of the policemen and the terrorist were shot and killed. The spree left five Israelis dead, four civilians and one policeman.
The one of the sites of the terrorist attack in Bnei Brak
(al-Risalah Twitter account, March 29, 2022).
One of the attack sites (al-Quds, March 30, 2022).
It was the third terrorist attack in the center of an Israeli city during one week. A total of 11 people were killed, three of whom belonged to the Israeli security forces. Unlike the two previous attacks, in Beersheba and Hadera, which were carried out by Israeli Arabs inspired by ISIS, the attack in Bnei Brak was carried out by a Palestinian from the village of Ya’bed, near Jenin.
The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Fatah’s military terrorist wing, claimed the terrorist was one of its operative. However, it is unclear if he actually was, as several contradictory reports were issued regarding his organizational affiliation. The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades also stated that any attempt to halt the “resistance” [i.e., terrorist attacks] in Jerusalem would fail, and that Israel would not have either security or stability (al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades Telegram channel, March 29, 2022). Many spokesmen said the attack had been inspired by Land Day (March 30), the beginning of the Muslim religious month of Ramadan, and the summit meeting of foreign ministers held in the Negev (March 29, 2022).
Because the attack resulted in Israeli deaths, it was received with spontaneousoutbursts of joy and glee in many locations in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and Palestinians in east Jerusalem also celebrated. The two previous attacks were also welcomed and praised, but there were fewer celebrations and most of them were held in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian media gave extensive coverage to the attack, and unlike the two previous attacks, in this case Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman, issued a statement condemning the “killing of Israeli and Palestinian civilians [sic].” The statement was apparently the result of political pressure exerted on him, mainly by the United States (Israeli media, March 29, 2022). Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) spokesmen exulted over the attack. Khaled Mashaal, head of the “external” Hamas leadership, promised the month of Ramadan would be full of “surprises” (Hamas Telegram channel, March 31, 2022).
Information about the terrorist and his assistant
The terrorist was Dhia Hamarsha. He was born in 1995 and came from the village of Ya’bed, southwest of Jenin. He was detained by Israel in 2016 and sentenced to 30 months in prison for possessing and dealing arms. After his release he worked with his father selling cell phones and tabaco. His clan is affiliated with Fatah, although according to information received by al-Jazeera TV, he was imprisoned in the wing for PIJ prisoners. He was documented in a video holding a green Hamas flag and participating in Hamas activities. According to the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi, he was an operative in Fatah’s military terrorist wing (al-Quds al-Arabi, March 29, 2022).
The Israeli media reported he was imprisoned for suggestions to carry out a PIJ suicide bombing attack. After a plea bargain he went to jail for two and a half years, and since his release had had several jobs, including working illegally in Israel (Haaretz, March 31, 2022).
His Facebook page was closed shortly after the attack, but according to one of his posts, “Anyone who wants to meet Allah, Allah wants to meet him” (aljazeera.net, March 30, 2022). On another occasion he wrote, “No reconciliation [with Israel], no concessions.” According to other posts, he believed in “resistance” [i.e., terrorism and violence] as the only way to “liberate Palestine,” and often said he wanted to meet Allah. He posted dozens of pictures of his visits to al-Aqsa mosque, which might indicate he had become religious. Muhammad Fathi, a neighbor from the village of Ya’bed, said that even since he was child we wanted to be part of the “resistance” and had participated in most the funerals held in the village for shaheeds (Quds Press, March 29, 2022).
Right: Dhia Hamarsha (Twitter account of journalist Hassan Aslih, March 29, 2022) Left: Dhia Hamarsha on the Temple Mount (al-Boaba 24 website, March 30, 2022).
The Palestinian media reported that IDF forces had detained Fathi Abu Baker, who had helped Hamarsha carry out the attack in Bnei Brak (Paldf Twitter account, March 29, 2022).
Fathi Abu Baker, detained by the IDF on suspicion on helping the terrorist (Paldf Twitter account, March 29, 2022).
Unlike his lack of response to the terrorist attacks in Beersheba and Hadera, this time Mahmoud Abbas issued a condemnation, apparently the result of political pressure. It was a limply-worded condemnation stating that the killing of Israeli and Palestinian civilians would only cause the situation to deteriorate during the sensitive days of Ramadan and the Jewish and Christian holidays. He also warned the settlers not to exploit the events to harm Palestinians (Wafa, March 29, 2022). Hamas criticized the condemnation. Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem claimed it did not reflect Palestinian public opinion and served the “Zionist narrative” (Shehab, March 29, 2022).
Mahmoud Abbas’ condemnation of the attack as it appeared in Wafa, March 29, 2022.
As opposed to Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah movement in Jenin issued a eulogy for Hamarsha, claiming his “action” had “bravely defended the rights of the Palestinian people.” Fatah sources in Jenin declared a general strike in Ya’bed, where the terrorist lived, and announced an alert and general mobilization in case IDF forces entered the village (al-Andalou News, March 30, 2022).
Poster commemorating Dhia Hamarsha, “al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades hero and shaheed.” The Fatah logo appears in the upper left-hand corner (YouTube, March 31, 2022).
The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Fatah’s military terrorist wing, issued a formal mourning notice with its logo for the death of its operative. According to the announcement, Israel could only dream of enjoying security and stability, and of “extinguishing the fire of the resistance” (al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades Telegram channel, March 30, 2022).
The official al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades mourning notice (al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades Telegram channel, March 30, 2022).
Hamas issued a statement praising the attack, stressing the “courageous attacks carried out by the Palestinian people” in every location, “the natural and legal [sic] response to the occupation’s terrorism and crimes against Palestinians.” According to the statement, Hamas had already “warned Israel” about exacerbating its “violations and crimes,” noting that the Palestinian people would not sit idly by, but rather would “resist terrorism” in every way and defend Jerusalem, al-Aqsa mosque and the “occupied land” with “comprehensive resistance” (Hamas website, March 29, 2022).
Right: Cartoon by Hamas-affiliated Omaya Joha. The Arabic reads, “Dhia Hamarsha, the hero of the Bnei Brak attack” (al-Risalah, March 30, 2022). Left: Satisfaction and glee. The Arabic reads, “Tel Aviv closed for maintenance until further notice” (al-Risalah Twitter account, March 30, 2022).
Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, claimed the Palestinian people were “proud of the courageous attack” carried out by “the heroic shaheed” Dhia Hamarsha in Bnei Brak. According to Haniyeh, it caused “the Zionist entity” pain and sent a message that the future was in the hands of the legal owners [sic] of the land [i.e., the Palestinians], and not in the hands of the PA, which had security coordination with Israel, or with some of the Arab states which had normalized relations with Israel. He added that the attack had redrawn the map of Palestine on the eve of Land Day (Felesteen, March 29, 2022).
Khaled Mashaal, head of the “external” Hamas leadership, said during an online meeting about the “continuation of the resistance,” that it had its finger on the trigger and the month of Ramadan would be “full of surprises.” He claimed the attack in Bnei Brak “proved” the “resistance” had to be the way chosen to send a clear message to put an end to negotiations and talks about normalizing relations [with Israel] (Nafdha Miser website, March 31, 2022).
Ali Barakeh, a member of the “external” Hamas leadership, said the rise in the number of “resistance” attacks, carried out in Beersheba, Hadera and Tel Aviv [i.e., Bnei Brak] was a “natural response to the crimes of Israel” against the Palestinian people and its activities against the Muslim and Christian holy sites. He said the attacks “proved” that the policy of normalization and security coordination with Israel did not bring security. He said the Palestinian people would not agree to make concessions, negotiate or sign new agreements at the expense of the Palestinian cause. He added that the “resistance” was the only way to “liberate the land,” restore the refugees to their homes and establish a Palestinian state on all of Palestine with “Jerusalem as its capital.” He also claimed that the attacks, which were carried out for Land Day and the beginning of Ramadan, sent the clear message that the Palestinian people would defend their holy sites and sacrifice shaheeds, prisoners and the wounded for the sake of the liberation of Palestine. He added that the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria, Jerusalem, in the “Zionist entity” and around the world were united on the issue of “resistance” as they had been during Operation Guardian of the Walls [May 2021] (Hamas website, March 30, 2022).
Hamas spokesman Musheir al-Masri said the “excellent attack” was a “natural reaction” to Israel’s [alleged] crimes, and stressed the common fate of the Palestinian people. He also said the attack had been the “rapid response” to the “summit of shame and disgrace in the Negev,” and it stressed that the summit could not legitimize the “occupation” (al-Quds, March 29, 2022).
The PIJ said in a statement that the attack showed the determination of the Palestinian people to make Israel pay for its activities against them. According to the announcement, Israel is fully responsible for everything it does to the Palestinians and the attacks are the natural response. The announcement stressed the continuation of the “resistance,” adding that its “struggle,” with all its force, was directed against Israel (Ma’an, March 30, 2022). The Jenin Battalion of the PIJ’s military terrorist wing warned Israel not to enter Jenin (PIJ Telegram channel, March 29, 2022).
The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades’ Nidal al-Amoudi Battalion (which split from Fatah and operates mainly in the Gaza Strip) praised the “heroism” of the attack, noting it was the natural reaction to Israel’s [alleged] crimes against the Palestinian people. The heroic attacks will continue, according to the Battalion, until Israel has been evicted from the Palestinian territories [sic]. Armed resistance “is the only way to liberate the land and its people from the defilement of the occupation” (al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades’ Nidal al-Amoudi Battalion website, March 29, 2022).
The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades’ Nidal al-Amoudi Battalion’ announcement from its website, March 29, 2022.
Hezbollah issued an announcement praising the attack, stating that it proved to the IDF and the settlers that no place in “Palestine” was safe. Hezbollah also said the fact that three attacks had been carried out within a matter of days proved the Palestinian people were determined to defend themselves and their lands. Hezbollah said that no normalization summit would provide Israel with security or change the decision of the Palestinian people to take the path of “resistance” [i.e. terrorist attacks] (al-Ahed, March 30, 2022).
Expressions of joy in the Palestinian street
After news of the attack had been made public, a large crowd gathered in front of the terrorist’s house in the village of Ya’bed, near Jenin. They chanted slogans praising Muhammed Deif, the commander of Hamas’ military-terrorist wing, shouting that ” many shaheeds are marching to Jerusalem.” In Hebron, Tulkarm and Jenin parades were held to celebrate and baklava and candy were distributed to passersby, both in Judea and Samaria and in the Gaza Strip.
Right: A Palestinian crowd that gathered in front of the terrorist’s house in Ya’bed. Left: Distributing baklava to passersby (Paldf Twitter account, March 29, 2022).
Distributing baklava and candy in the center of Jenin (Shehab Twitter account, March 29, 2022).
On March 30, 2022, Palestinians marched from the center of Ya’bed to the house of the terrorist. The shouted support for the clan, and the terrorist’s father told the crowd he was proud of his son, who had restored a bit of the Arab nation’s stolen honor. He said they were currently living through historic times, and thanked the young people of Ya’bed who had given the family moral support. The marchers said they were proud of the attack, which had proven to everyone that Ya’bed could kill the enemy at point-blank range (Felesteen, March 30, 2022).
Right: Joyous parade in Ya’bed (Felesteen, March 30, 2022). Left: Distributing baklava in Deir al-Balah (Twitter account of journalist Ashraf Abu Amra, March 28, 2022).