HALAMISH, West Bank — Just a few hours before he walked to the Jewish settlement, before he climbed over the security fence and knocked politely on the front door of the Salomon family home, Omar al-Abed posted his last will and testament on his Facebook page.
“All I have is a sharpened knife,” he wrote last week, “and it answers the call of al-Aqsa.”
The young Palestinian, who was majoring in business administration in college, rambled on in his social media posts in badly written Arabic. He wore a clean white shirt and pressed jeans, and carried a large knife to the murder scene.
He vowed to die a glorious martyr’s death and left instructions for his imagined burial rites. He thumped his chest as a true “Son of Palestine.” He ranted against some on the Palestinian side — and he called Jews “pigs and monkeys.”
Abed stabbed three members of the Salomon family to death Friday night in the Jewish settlement of Halamish, as they began to lay the table with food and drink, with sweets and whiskeys, to celebrate the birth of the newest grandson.
First responders described the scene as horrific, with the victims suffering from multiple, frenzied stabs, including the household’s 70-year-old patriarch.
Abed was shot and lightly wounded by an off-duty soldier from a nearby house. He is being held by Israeli authorities.
The gruesome attack was part of an 11-day surge in violence in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the capital of Jordan that left 15 dead.
It may or may not be over.
Early Tuesday, in an abrupt reversal, Israeli security forces began removing the metal detectors that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered placed at the entrances to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The scanners enraged Palestinians, who said the devices were not for their safety but to increase Israel’s control over access to the mosque.
Netanyahu and his supporters said the detectors were needed after three Arab Israeli gunmen smuggled homemade machine guns into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound on July 14, then shot and killed two Israeli policemen at the site, which both Muslims and Jews regard as holy.
The Palestinians say their fury — expressed in mass protests, both peaceful and violent, and the killing of three Israelis at the Jewish settlement on Friday — are driven by fear that their sacred mosque is under threat.
The Islamic committee that administers the mosque said it would call off the impasse only if the situation was returned to how it had been before July 14.
Inflamed by killings, and jostling now for political advantage, Israelis and Palestinians see the latest spasm of bloodshed from vastly different vantage points.
They disagree about what started the violence, who escalated and who incited — and this deep division is at heart of the latest crisis and familiar to anyone who has watched the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the past 30 years.
Now into this volatile mix President Trump sends his untested Middle East team to make peace, led by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, special envoy Jason Greenblatt and U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, all Jewish men with long histories of supporting Israel.
This is what they will hear.
“I blame Netanyahu for what my son has done. I blame him and the Israeli army for all the blood,” said Abdul Jaleel al-Abed, the knife attacker’s father, who gathered with neighbors at his home, which is now slated for demolition by Israel, in a Palestinian village whose roads have been blocked with high dirt berms by the Israeli army.
“All of us would gladly die for al-Aqsa,” he said.
He quickly added that he was opposed to his son’s “operation,” using the Arabic euphemism for a deadly attack.
He asked, “What about the Palestinians killed?”
Around him, men began to scroll their mobile phones and point to videos showing an Israeli soldier kicking a Muslim worshiper or an Israeli security guard at a settlement firing his rifle at Palestinian protesters.
The father said he understood his son’s motivation but did not endorse the killing, especially of the old man and a woman.
Abed said his son spared the children in the house.
“He kept them safe,” the father said.
According to neighbors, survivors of the attack said Abed did no such thing. The wife of one of the slain said at the funeral that she rushed the children into a safe room while her husband struggled with the attacker in the kitchen.
Abed’s mother was arrested Monday by Israeli forces after a video appeared of her sharing sweets with well-wishers and saying she was proud of her son.
Netanyahu called Abed “a beast incited by wild hatred.”
The father of the assailant said his son spent Friday watching televised images of Muslims praying at the barricades outside al-Aqsa, refusing to pass through the metal detectors. He watched as violent demonstrations began afterward, when three Palestinian youths were shot and killed, witnesses said by Israeli forces.
“This is all about the metal detectors,” the elder Abed said. “Take them away and the situation will immediately calm down.”
A Jewish settler who lives in the community where the Salomon family was killed said the metal detectors had little to do with the attack.
“They don’t really need a reason to stab Jews,” said Miri Maoz Ovadia, whose parents live across the street from where Friday’s attack took place. “We don’t see any connection between this act of terror and their mosque.”
Ovadia and her family live in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank that the international community calls illegal, although Israel disputes that.
For their part, many Israelis say the metal detectors are an excuse, and they believe the root cause of the violence is Palestinian hatred, incitement and rejection of Israel as a Jewish state.
“The metal detectors? That is not the reason. There were no metal detectors when they murdered the Fogels, no metal detectors when they throw rocks at our cars, no metal detectors when they toss molotov cocktails,” said Victor Waknine, 47, who lives in Halamish and works as a school administrator.
Waknine was referring to a killing in 2011 at a nearby Jewish settlement, when two Palestinian assailants entered the home of Ehud and Ruth Fogel and stabbed them to death alongside three of their six children. One of the victims was a 3-month-old baby.
Waknine said, “Most settlers do not want to evict the Palestinians. We want good relations with our neighbors. We want peace and quiet.”
Several Israeli government ministers said Abed should face the death penalty, which is on the Israeli law books but rarely used.
“They want to execute my son,” Abed’s father said. “What can I say? He is my son. He did what he did. But many support him. They think what he did was for al-Aqsa.”
Ruth Eglash and Sufian Taha contributed to this report.