Suspect said to be former member of Aksa Martyrs Brigades, arms dealer.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Palestinian Authority security forces in Jenin have arrested a man on suspicion of involvement in the assassination of Israeli-Arab actor and film producer Juliano Mer-Khamis, a PA security official said on Tuesday.The official said the suspect was a member of Hamas, but did not give further details. However, Palestinians living in the Jenin refugee camp that was the scene of Monday’s killing said the prime suspect was a former member of Fatah’s armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades. They said the man had previously served time in an Israeli prison and was known in the camp as an arms dealer.RELATED:Actor Juliano Mer-Khamis gunned down in JeninNo group has claimed responsibility for the slaying of Mer-Khamis, 52, who lived in the camp, where he also managed the Freedom Theater. A masked gunman opened fire at him as he got into his car after leaving the theater.His 10-month-old baby, who was with him in the car, was not hurt, but a babysitter sitting next to Mer- Khamis was lightly injured in the arm.“Everyone in Jenin is shocked over this heinous crime,” said camp resident Mahmoud Abu al-Rub.“Although the actor had received death threats in the past, the murder came as a huge surprise.”AdvertisementThe PA governor of Jenin, Qadoura Moussa, confirmed that a suspect had been arrested in connection with the killing, but he, too, refused to elaborate.Moussa expressed hope that the case would be solved soon, adding that some of the people questioned following the murder had been released.PA security forces interrogated several Palestinians who worked with Mer-Khamis, including Zakariya Zubaidi, the former commander of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades in the camp. Zubaidi said on Tuesday he believed that a “powerful group or even a state” was behind the assassination.“This is a big case,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “I don’t believe he was killed for personal reasons. This can’t be the work of an individual.”Zubaidi strongly condemned the assassination as a “despicable and cowardly” crime and said Mer- Khamis had devoted his life to promoting cultural activities and the theater project in the camp. He called on the PA security forces to do their utmost to apprehend the perpetrator.“Mer-Khamis is the martyr of humanity, and the Freedom Theater will continue its work despite the absence of Mer-Khamis,” he said. “He was a leader of a revolution and freedom.”Zubaidi and dozens of Palestinians held a memorial on Tuesday for Mer- Khamis, where they expressed outrage and grief over the assassination.Black flags covered the Freedom Theater as activists declared three days of mourning.One of the speakers at the memorial, Bilal al-Sa’di, hailed Mer-Khamis as a role-model for the children of the refugee camp and a “symbol of the culture of resistance.”Khaled Abu al-Haija, who worked in the theater with the slain actor, said the murder was a major loss for Palestinian culture. He said Mer-Khamis had established the first Palestinian theater that “embodied the meaning of freedom and alternative resistance through culture and not the rifle.”Palestinian film producer Nabil al- Rai, who also worked in the theater, described Mer-Khamis as a noble man and one of the most important Arab actors.In Ramallah, dozens of Palestinians staged a mock funeral for Mer- Khamis and called on the PA to capture the perpetrator. Minister of Culture Siham Barghouti, who participated in the event, said the assassination was extremely regrettable.“The killing of Mer-Khamis is a crime against the cultural movement in Palestine,” she said.