Father of Palestinian who took part in attack on bus says Israel 'occupation' drove him to do it

The father of Bahaa Allyan, who was killed by Israeli police after shooting three Israelis on a bus in Jerusalem, holds a photo of his son at his home in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Jabal Mukaber on Oct 15.
The father of Bahaa Allyan, who was killed by Israeli police after shooting three Israelis on a bus in Jerusalem, holds a photo of his son at his home in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Jabal Mukaber on Oct 15.PHOTO: AFP

JERUSALEM (AFP) - The attack that saw two Palestinians board a bus and shoot and stab people at random shocked Israelis - but Bahaa Allyan's father said his 22-year-old son had reasons for his actions.

"The violence that the occupation (Israel) practices on people as well as the weakness of the Palestinian leadership was what Bahaa was thinking about," Mr Mohammed Allyan told AFP. "I respect his belief."

Tuesday's attack was yet another example of young Palestinians targeting Israelis with knives, guns or cars since a new upsurge in violence began at the start of October.

It was the worst to hit Jerusalem over the last couple of weeks, killing two people and wounding around 10 others.

Allyan was shot dead by police, while his accomplice Bilal Ghanem was wounded.

Most of the recent attackers seem to have been acting alone, without direction from a mastermind or militant movement.

Allyan has been portrayed as a particularly unlikely candidate for an attack, described as someone who organised a book reading initiative last year and who on days off would dress up as a clown to entertain children.

"He was an artist and so full of energy and non-violent... why did he shoot people on a bus?" one comment on Allyan's Facebook wall asked.

But the facts would seem to speak for themselves: Another young Palestinian launching himself into a violent operation, probably understanding that he was likely going to die.

The hillside Jabel Mukaber area of east Jerusalem has a reputation among Israelis for being volatile. It is also where Allyan lived with his parents and where Israel set up checkpoints after the bus attack.

There are now three tents for those seeking to mourn the dead in Jabel Mukaber.

One is for Allyan, while the second is for Alaa Abu Jamal, who worked for a phone company until he was shot dead after running over and then stabbing a rabbi at a Jerusalem bus stop.

Jamal's attack occurred at roughly the same time as Allyan's, though it was not clear if they were coordinated.

The third tent is for 18-year-old Mustafa Khateeb, who was shot and killed by police as he allegedly tried to stab a policeman on Monday in Jerusalem's Old City.

Khateeb's father Adel Bakr said he knew something was wrong with his son when his school contacted him about his absence.

"I went to the police station to ask about my son and I ended up at the hospital to identify him."

He said the family did not trust Israeli authorities' version of events.

"We need to get the video from police to know the real story of his death and put my heart and his mother's heart at ease," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed suggestions that the lack of progress in peace efforts and Jewish settlement building in the West Bank has led to the unrest.

"They're attacking us not because they want peace or don't want peace," he told journalists on Thursday.

"It's because they don't want us here. If they're frustrated, I assure you that frustration will continue because we're going to continue to be here."

Whatever the motivation, videos of incidents spread online have fed Palestinian anger.

Such videos include footage of Israeli security forces opening fire on alleged attackers, with Palestinians viewing some of the shootings as unjustified.

Allyan's father said that a video of 13-year-old Ahmed Manasra affected his son. In the video, recorded after Manasra allegedly took part in the stabbing of two Israelis on Monday, the teenager lies bleeding on the ground while a man stands near him and tells him to die.

Mr Udi Dekel, a former Israeli soldier and deputy director for the Institute for National Security Studies, said many young Palestinians feel a sense of helplessness.

"They don't see a solution or a future and they don't have family or school influences to curb them," he told public radio.

For some, Israel's policy of demolishing attackers' homes have also led to outrage.

On Oct 6, the army blew up the home of Ghassan Abu Jamal, also in Jabel Mukaber, after he and his cousin killed five people in a synagogue last year. They were both shot dead at the time of the attack.

The Israeli authorities can also withhold the bodies of attackers, and Allyan's father said that he was hoping to get his son's body back for burial.

"I respect the decision of my son and what he did, and if the Israeli authorities decide not to return (his body) to us and bury him in another place, then he will be buried in Palestinian soil," he said.