|Screen-cap from the security video|
The would-be knifer, identified subsequently as Ahmed Muhammad Mahameed, 30, an Arab resident of the Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel, is seen walking briskly from the direction of the Temple Mount, turning sharply in the direction of a small group of on-duty police, then quickly pulling a knife out and attempting to stab someone. There follows a scuffle which is shown only briefly and then - according to a Times of Israel report - the assailant is shot by one of the police who came under lethal attack and he is killed.
The report goes on to focus on the complaints of the dead attacker's family. They say he was mentally ill and had twice tried to take his own life. They deny that he carried out the attack for nationalistic reasons but fail to offer an explanation - beyond mental illness - for what happened. They also deny that the response of the police was reasonable and say the officer who fired at him was “light with his finger on the trigger.”
“They didn’t have to kill him,” said the assailant’s father, pointing to other instances where police managed to neutralize attackers by shooting at their legs instead of their upper bodies. Mustafa Abu Megged, a friend of Mahameed’s, called his family a “normative” one that would never endorse such conduct. “They could have neutralized him in another way. When it comes to Arabs, they [the police] are easy to pull the trigger,” Megged charged. In addition, the Umm al-Fahm Municipality released a statement Saturday condemning police for what it called the “cold-blooded murder” of its resident.Members of the family are quoted as well in a Ynet report:
"He suffers from a mental illness and he tried several times to commit suicide. We did not know he was in the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday, he never usually goes there,” said Ahmad’s brother Naseem, in an interview with Ynet... "My brother is a mentally ill person who never thought of harming people... We thought at first that he was misidentified. My brother is not a terrorist. Everyone needs to understand his mental state and not jump to conclusion that are so far from the truth," Naseem vented... ["Family of stabbing attack suspect: He has mental illness", Ynet, August 17, 2018]There's a video embedded in the Times of Israel report that concludes with an officer reassuring the uniformed men on duty that they acted correctly in defending themselves and that doing so was in accordance with police values. It's hard to disagree with him.
Umm al-Fahm is home to more than 50,000 Arabs, overwhelmingly Muslim and almost all of them Israeli citizens.
For the past two decades, its public life has been increasingly viewed as directed by the outlawed (since 2015) Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement whose leading figure, former mayor of the city (between 1989 and 2001) Sheikh Raed Salah, is identified with Hamas. Salah is notorious for inciting under the slogan "Al-Aqsa is in danger":
In 1996, as events surrounding the authorization of a northern exit to the Western Wall tunnels were unfolding (and which led to violent riots), Salah became aware of how to capitalize politically on matters regarding the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.We may be about to see the flames of that particular kind of incitement being fanned again.
He started to hold an annual rally titled “Al Aqsa [Mosque] is in danger” in the northern city of Umm al-Fahm. Thousands usually attended. [Avi Issacharoff, "The Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch — long a thorn in Israel’s side", Times of Israel, November 17, 2015]