TEL AVIV – Israel’s security forces have been facing difficult questions as to why they were unable to prevent Sunday’s terror attack that killed two people and injured six others.
The terrorist, a 39-year-old Arab with Israeli citizenship, was slated to turn himself in to prison at the exact time he carried out the attack following a four month jail sentence for assaulting a Jerusalem police officer in 2013.
Having previously served a stint in jail in 2015 on incitement charges, the assailant was known for years by the Shin Bet security agency and Israel Police, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.
According to the report, the terrorist had been posting with increased frequency on social media in recent days, as well as giving interviews to a Palestinian news agency in which he promoted violence against Israeli Jews.
Hamas, which praised the shooting as “heroic” and “brave,” declared the assailant to be a member of the terror group.
In a video of his coming home party following his jail sentence in 2015, fellow partiers are seen waving Hamas flags.
“For some reason he was not being monitored or followed. And the question is why not?” said Channel 2’s veteran police reporter Moshe Nussbaum. “Maybe, and I say this cautiously, but maybe he could have been stopped.”
Jerusalem’s police chief Yoram Halevy defended the police’s inaction by saying only that they were monitoring “many potential attackers” and the terrorist was “one of those who certainly had the potential” to carry out an attack.
Halevy added that the attack could have been far worse were it not for heavy police presence in the area. The terrorist allegedly used an IDF issue M-16 machine-gun with “lots and lots of ammunition,” he said, and had he made it to the center of town, “he would have killed lots of people.”
However, Ya’ari maintained that the killer’s rap sheet – including his renown as an inciter and the fact that he has been barred from the Temple Mount – should have kept the police on their toes. However, Israel’s security apparatus, Ya’ari said, did not think the terrorist was “about to make the transition from using his fists to using a machine-gun.”
Ynet news reported that blame for the attack also lay with Israel’s justice system. The terrorist should have already been in jail, but in 2015 his sentence was postponed despite having repeatedly failed to show up in court.
The terrorist told independent Palestinian news agency Ma’an that he was intending to report to Ramle prison at 10am Sunday, the exact time he launched his killing spree.
According to the report, failure to do so would mean facing imprisonment without trial.
In the interview, the terrorist said he had been detained and released five times in the past two weeks, and was barred from entering east Jerusalem for a month.
The attacker had been indicted on 15 counts of incitement to violence, and seven counts of supporting a terror organization, Channel 10 reported.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan blamed social media sites like Facebook for not removing his posts, saying there was a direct link between the social media giant and terrorism.
“Facebook and other social media have a direct responsibility,” Erdan said after touring the site of Sunday’s attack. He added that it was “scandalous” that Facebook had restored numerous Hamas-linked Facebook pages in the past two weeks “because of Palestinian public pressure.”