Police probe response to J'lem attack

Witnesses report that officers who arrived first chose not to enter building echoing with gunfire.

Mercaz Harav library 224 (photo credit: AP)
Mercaz Harav library 224
(photo credit: AP)
As the investigation into the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva terror attack entered its third day Sunday, more questions than answers remained concerning the incident and concerning police handling of the crucial first minutes after the shooting began. Jerusalem Police have launched a probe into the police response to the shooting attack in the yeshiva. Eyewitnesses have said that it took between 15-20 minutes for police to actually enter the building. Ultimately, the first two police officers to arrive did not enter the yeshiva, despite hearing the gunshots. Instead, one apparently ran down the street to prevent a bus that was traveling to the building from approaching, and a second said that he stood outside to prevent civilians from entering. In the end, it was an off-duty IDF officer, Capt. David Shapira, who ran past police officers standing outside and entered the building to neutralize the terrorist. No conclusions have been reached yet in the police inquiry. Police chief Insp.-Gen. David Cohen ordered police forces across the country to maintain the high level of alert they have been on since Thursday's terror attack. Meanwhile, around 20 police officers raided the mourning tent outside of the family house of Ala Abu Dhaim, where family members, neighbors, and supporters had been gathering since Friday morning. The police handed Abu Dhaim's father a list of arrest orders for other family members, whom police hoped might shed a light on the events that led up to the deadly attack. No terror group has conclusively asserted responsibility for the shooting, and it is still unclear where Abu Dhaim procured the weapons and ammunition used in the attack. In recent days, partial claims, or hints of responsibility have come from Hamas, Hizbullah, and a Hizbullah-allied Israeli Arab organization known as the "Galilee Free Men." A police search of his car, which was confiscated for investigation by police, revealed ammunition and other items that police believe to be suspicious. On Saturday night, police announced that they had arrested eight suspects in connection with the terror attack. On Sunday morning, in accordance with police orders, the family removed Hamas and Hizbullah flags they had hung on the mourning tent. Abu Dhaim's body has yet to be turned over for his family for burial, and on Sunday, the National Insurance Institute (NII) confirmed its decision that the killer's parents were not entitled to benefit payments for their son's death. The NII also decided to withhold burial assistance. Jerusalem Police Chief Cmdr. Aharon Franco had said that Abu Dhaim was not "known" to the security forces, but neighbors of the Abu Dhaim family said that he had been detained by security services around four months ago, although it was not clear for what.