Riad Khalil (al-Masalmah), the terrorist who killed two Israelis at the Beit Panorama office building last month, expressed remorse for his actions at a hearing in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. The hearing was the first in the case of the Palestinian worker who tried to enter a room in a religious-articles factory where a minyan was davening Minchah, and unable to do so, stabbed two people to death outside the room.
The victims, 32-year-old Aharon Yasiev from Cholon, and 51-year-old Reuven Aviram from Ramle, Hy”d, were killed when al-Masalmah tried to get into the shul as a minyan for Minchah was just beginning. People inside the room blocked the door for several long minutes as the terrorist tried to barge into the room. Eventually an individual with a gun was able to shoot the terrorist, wounding him moderately.
Speaking to the court, Khalil said that he “regretted” his actions. “I am sorry for what I did. My life is over,” he said. Prosecutors plan to throw the book at Khalil, charging him with murder, conspiracy, weapons charges, and other crimes.
Investigators are still trying to discern the terrorist’s motives. At 36 years of age, with five children, Khalil, a resident of Dura, south of Chevron, did not fit the profile of a typical Palestinian stabbing terror attack perpetrator of recent weeks, most of whom have been teenagers. Khalil, who worked at a nearby restaurant, is the first Palestinian with a work permit to carry out a terror attack in Israel proper, officials said. He had received the upgraded work permit just four days ago. As a result of the attack, Israel revoked work permits for 1,200 Palestinians from the Chevron area.
“His wife had just given birth to twin baby girls,” said one investigator. “That’s far from the profile of a terrorist.” The fact that Khalil chose a shul to attack, the investigator said, indicated that Khalil may have had a religious motive in the attack, although this has not yet been established.