The car used in the Monday night attack
The car used in the Monday night attack Photo: Flash90

Security forces have identified the terrorist who attacked a group of IDF soldiers Monday night in the capital as 19-year-old Kassem Salah Al-Mughrabi, a resident of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber. His motives, it appears, were not limited to the Muslim imperative of jihad against the Jews - although the results were the same.

Al-Mughrabi rammed his new black BMW into a large crowd of

When the would-be lover's advances were spurned he decided to pour his anger out on the Jewish Israelis.

pedestrians shortly before 11:00 p.m. at Kikar Tzahal, next to the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's Old City. He was shot dead by an off-duty IDF soldier at the scene. Most of the 23 victims, one of whom is in serious condition, were Jewish soldiers who had gone to the Old City to participate in the nighttime selichot prayers traditionally recited before Rosh Hashanah.

Mixed Motives and a New Terror Tactic

Minutes after the attack, a previously unknown group calling itself Nisour al-Jalil (Victory of the Galilee) notified the Arabic media that it was responsible for sending the terrorist. The caller provided details of the attacker's identity that were unconfirmed at the time, lending credence to the cell's claim.

A terrorist group with a similar name, Ahrar al-Jalil (Freemen of the Galilee), has claimed responsibility for a series of vehicle, shooting and stabbing attacks. Ahrar al-Jalil is thought to be an arm of the Lebanese Hizbullah operating within the Arab population of Israel. It is known that terrorist groups often use multiple names for purposes of psychological warfare or for their own operational security.

The Hamas terrorist organization, which is the ruling power in the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, and the Iranian-backed, PA-based Islamic Jihad terror group praised the Monday night terrorist attack in Jerusalem. Islamic Jihad called the attack "a natural response to the criminal occupation," while Hamas was more emphatic and called it "a natural response to the continued Zionist attacks on the Palestinian nation, to settling and Judaization."

Terrorist spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told journalists that "the deed proves that the Palestinian nation can find new ways to fight the occupation."

Israeli police, on the other hand, indicated that while Mughrabi's attack indeed targeted Jews specifically, the spark for it may have been mixed with motives far less ideological than the Islamists are promoting. On Tuesday morning, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby said the terrorist was suffering from unrequited love.

Mughrabi apparently wanted to marry his cousin, but when the would-be lover's advances were spurned he decided to pour his anger out on the Jewish Israelis instead. Police noted that, like other recent Muslim attackers from Jerusalem, Mughrabi had no previous security record.

Third Attack by an Arab From Jerusalem

The attack was the third of its kind this year; all three carried out by eastern Jerusalem Arab residents, none of whom had previously been identified as an active terrorist.

The neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber is home to one of two terrorists who carried out two separate attacks in the capital using construction bulldozers this past summer, and to the man responsible for murdering eight students at Jerusalem's Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva in March. Arab residents of the capital carry either Israeli citizenship or permanent residency ID cards, per their own decision, both of which allow them unhindered access to the rest of the country.

Jerusalem District Police Commander Maj.-Gen. Aharon Franco ordered police Tuesday morning to block residents in the neighborhood from erecting a mourners' tent at the home of the terrorist's family in Jabel Mukaber. While such tents are traditionally set up by Arabs in Israel to receive visitors paying their condolences in the wake of a death in the family, the mourning tents of terrorists' families have been used to lionize the dead and to promote jihad.

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