Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today for failing to condemn the killing of an American tourist in Jaffa yesterday evening in an attack where 10 more were injured.
Speaking alongside Vice President Joe Biden who is in the region on an official visit rumored to re-start peace talks, Netanyahu charged, “Unfortunately President Abbas has not only refused to condemn these terrorist attacks, his Fatah party actually praised the murderer of this American citizen as a Palestinian martyr and a hero.”
Biden added Tuesday’s events were a “heinous terrorist attack,” and relayed his family was having dinner 20 minutes away along a beachside promenade.
“My wife and my two grandchildren and granddaughter are having dinner on the beach not very far from where that happened. I don’t know exactly whether it’s 100 meters or 1,000 meters, and it just brings home that it can happen,” the Vice President said.
Abbas who is scheduled to meet with Biden this evening in Ramallah, has not released a statement on yesterday’s events. The attacker was identified by police as Bashar Masalha, 22, from the West Bank. Hamas claimed responsibility for the stabbings over social media.
Israeli forces raided the Masalha’s family home overnight near Qalqiliya in the West Bank.
The American victim was identified as Taylor Force, a 29-year old graduate student at Vanderbilt University, who was in Israel on a class trip. Force was a veteran, serving two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and completed his undergraduate studies at West Point.
Force’s killing was unusual, taking place near the Jaffa port at a busy commercial location where Palestinians and Israelis often mix. Two Palestinian citizens of Israel and one pregnant tourist were among those injured in the attack.
Israel’s security agency Shin Beit said last month that Palestinians have attempted or carried out at least 228 attacks on Israelis since October. Yet a majority of the assaults have taken place in the West Bank targeting either Israeli soldiers or settlers.
Force’s killing was the third attack to take place on Tuesday.
Yesterday a Palestinian from the northern West Bank town of Zawiya stabbed an Israeli in Peta Tikva before he was shot dead at the scene, said Israeli police. In Jerusalem two Palestinians from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya opened fire on officers, critically injuring two near the Damascus Gate, according to the police statement.
Israeli police also stated both of yesterday’s attackers from the West Bank had entered into Israel illegally, and did not possess any special travel or work permits. Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said yesterday in an emergency meeting that he would broaden efforts to prevent Palestinians without documents from entering Israel.
The killings mark a spike in attacks that have persisted since last October, leaving five Palestinian attackers killed by police and the American tourist in the span of 24 hours. Over the past five months Palestinians have killed at least 30 Israelis and Israeli forces have killed more than 180 Palestinians, a majority of whom were shot after allegedly carrying out attacks on Israelis.
Earlier today two Palestinians from the Kfar Aqab neighborhood of Jerusalem were killed by police after opening fire on a bus outside of the Old City seriously wounding one, said Israeli police.