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Jerusalem stabbing: ‘I am proud of my son’ says father of “Palestinian” knife attacker

Off the main highway between Ramallah and Birzeit in the West Bank is the smart new Palestinian neighbourhood of Sorda. The road is scarred black after a night of violent clashes and green metal rubbish bins have been tossed across the street,; giant rocks lay across the road and a small scrub fire still simmers.


Inside a modern plush property Shafiq Halabi sits in a semi-circle surrounded by local Palestinian men – family and friends – who are shaded by a tethered grape vine as they quietly sip coffee. The young men drape miniature Palestinian flags from the second level of their modern house and black and yellow Islamic Jihad flags hang from the windows.

Shafiq is processing the news that his 19-year-old son Muhannad Halabi went on a violent stabbing spree in Jerusalem’s Old City on 3 October killing two ultra-orthodox Israeli men – Aharon Bennett, 21, an off-duty soldier, and Nehamia Lavi, 41, a rabbi for the right-wing settlement group Ateret Cohanim, which aims to create a Jewish majority inside the Old City.

Bennett’s wife, Adele, 22, and their two-year-old son were injured and are being treated in hospital. The couple were walking through the Old City on their way back from the Western Wall when the attack occurred. Lavi had heard screams in the street and rushed to help Aharon Bennett, and his wife and child when he was also stabbed. Muhannad then fired a pistol at police and tourists. He was then shot dead by police.

The killing has shocked Israel and the funerals of the victims attracted tens of thousands of mourners on 4 October, but his father Shafiq speaks of “a polite kid” who was stubborn and naughty. He says Muhannad gave no indication that he was going to carry out the attack when he dropped his son in Ramallah earlier that day so he could catch a bus to university.

“I am proud of my son and what he did − he has done what 1.5 million Muslims have failed to do,” he said.


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