Exactly three weeks ago, an Arab resident of the Palestinian Authority murdered three Israeli security personnel at the back entrance to the town of Har Adar.
The terrorist, 37-year-old Beit Surik resident Nimer Mahmoud Ahmed Aljamal, had a valid Israeli work permit allowing him to enter Har Adar, and had until recently worked there cleaning houses.
Armed with a stolen pistol and carrying a work permit allowing him to enter Har Adar, Aljamal had apparently planned to carry out a mass shooting inside the town, and had trained with the pistol before the day of the attack.
Since the attack, army officials have barred PA workers from entering Har Adar, and pledged to make improvements at the checkpoint workers must pass through at the entrance to Har Adar.
On Monday, however, IDF Central Command chief General Roni Numa met with Har Adar’s security coordinator to discuss plans to reopen Har Adar to PA workers.
The plan sparked a sharp backlash from some residents, many of whom said the army has done little thus far to improve security in Har Adar or taken precautions to prevent another attack.
In an interview with Arutz Sheva, town councilman and member of the local security committee, Colonel (reserve) Chaim Mandel Shaked said he shared residents’ concerns, expressing his own opposition to the entry of PA workers before the army has proven it can properly secure the town.
“I oppose opening the gate [to PA workers] before any lessons are learned [from the attack]; only afterwards can we sit down and figure out whether or not we should open the gate [to PA workers]. While the attack took place just outside of the fence, it could have easily ended inside it. The despicable terrorist had wanted to get inside the town, and it was only because the town security director happened to spot him that the attack happened outside of the gate, and that was a miracle.”
While Har Adar previously maintained good relations with neighboring Arab towns, since the attack, Shaked said, most residents were no longer interested in employing PA workers.
“During most of the day, people go out to work, and it’s really basically just the kids and retirees here, and I don’t want to imagine what would have happened if the terrorist had managed to get into one of the kindergartens or the school.”
“There was a major security failure, and we cannot rely on coincidences and the security chief happening to notice [the terrorist]. It’s been three weeks and there are some lingering questions, such as why didn’t the town’s security team respond to the attack, or why weren’t residents told to stay indoors, and why didn’t the security guards have bullet-proof vests – these are just some of the troubling questions. The attack was a clarion call to stop being so complacent; we can’t go back to the way things were.”
Shaked added that the fact that many residents knew the terrorist and had employed him in their homes reinforced the sense that PA workers cannot be trusted.
“People don’t trust them anymore, since they had a person here whom they knew who became a terrorist. If it could happen with him, then anyone could become a terrorist. People used to leave their houses open for workers they employed, even when their children were at home. Now a lot of people have decided not to employee Arabs [from Judea and Samaria] in their homes.”
“So even if they do open the gate up again, there will be a dramatic drop in the number of entry permits, since no one wants to hire [PA workers]. People in Har Adar are very concerned – some can’t sleep at night and I’ve even heard that some children here are wetting their beds [since the attack].”
“We used to have good relations with the neighboring Arab towns, and our children would play with their children. But since the Intifada and the [resulting] construction of the security wall, we don’t visit them anymore and we don’t go there to shop, and they don’t visit us; they only come here to work. That’s not exactly coexistence. So I think that today, the less they hang around here, the better.”