The two Palestinians who carried out the terrorist attack in Elad on Thursday night were not affiliated with any terror group, members of their families and Palestinian sources claimed on Friday.
The terrorists, who murdered three Israelis, are from the village of Rummaneh, northwest of Jenin.
The two – Subhi Abu Shkair, 20, and Assad al-Rifa’i, 19 – worked as electricians at construction sites in Israel.
Residents of Rummaneh, which is known as a stronghold of the ruling Fatah faction headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said that the two were close friends and worked together in Israel.
Many of the villages and towns in the Jenin area are known as strongholds of Fatah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Rummaneh, home to 6,500 Palestinians, is located in Area B of the West Bank, where Israel is in charge of security. After 1967, many of the village's residents left for the Gulf states, the US and Europe in search of work.
A resident of the village said that he did not rule out the possibility that Abu Shkair and Rifa’i carried out the attack because of the “Israeli attacks against the Aqsa Mosque.”
He too claimed that the terrorists were not affiliated with any Palestinian group.
As the manhunt was underway, activists called on Palestinians not to share photos of the terrorists on social media platforms.
Residents and family members said that they were surprised to hear that the two men were behind the attack. They said that they learned about their involvement early Friday when Israel Police published their photos.
Haj Subhi Abu Shkair said that he was surprised to hear through the media that his grandson was involved in the attack.
“At around 6 a.m. I was surprised to see the picture of our son and his friend on Al-Jazeera,” he told Palestinian reporters. “Our son went to Ramallah to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. Everyone here knows that he was always busy with his work and that he didn’t belong to any group. He was successful in his work. He was an electrician and worked in Israel.”
On Friday morning, the terrorist’s father, Emad, was detained for interrogation by the Israel Police at his place of work in an Arab village in the Galilee, according to the grandfather. “They took him at 4 a.m. and questioned him,” he said. “They later released him.”
Haj Subhi said that his family was worried about the fate of the terrorist. “I don’t believe the Israeli version,” he added. “Our son is not affiliated with any group. Our clan, Sbaihat, is affiliated with Fatah, although we are not members of the faction. We are not extremists.”
The grandfather went on to blame Israel for the violence and tensions. “Our leadership reached out to them for peace,” he said. “But their leader [former prime minister Yitzhak] Rabin was shot because he wanted peace. They don’t want peace.”
Yusef al-Rifa’i, the father of the second terrorist, said that his family was also surprised to hear about the involvement of their son in the Elad terror attack.
According to him, the last time he saw his son Assad was two days ago. “I tried to call my son yesterday, but he did not answer the phone,” he said. “Then people told me that they saw his picture published in the media as the one who carried out the operation. I said that this was impossible. My son went to work in Ramallah together with his friend Subhi. From there, they were supposed to go to work in Elad. That’s all I know.”
Meanwhile, several Palestinian terror groups welcomed the “heroic operation” in Elad, saying it was “part of our people’s response to the arrogance and criminality of the occupation against worshipers at the Aqsa Mosque.”
In a statement, the groups said that Israel “understands only the language of force and war.” The Elad attack, they added, “confirms that violating al-Aqsa Mosque will ignite the entire region.”