Sur Baher, Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - As Israeli officials were mulling Israel's response to what is being described as a terror attack in the heart of Jerusalem, Arab residents of the man's Jerusalem neighborhood -- and his widow -- were still in shock and disbelief on Thursday.
The incident highlighted the delicate balance between Israeli Jews and Arabs who share the city.
Husam Taysir Dwayat, 30, an Arab resident of Jerusalem, drove a front-end loader down a busy main street of Jerusalem on Wednesday, crushing cars in his path, ramming a bus until it overturned and setting off a stampede of people running for their lives.
Three Israelis were killed, including a 33-year-old mother whose five-month old baby was snatched from her vehicle by a passer-by just seconds before Dwayat smashed her car.
Dozens of others were injured. Dwayat was finally stopped by an off-duty soldier, a civilian and an off-duty anti-terror policeman, who all climbed onto the cab, struggled with him and finally shot him dead as he yelled Allahu Akbar and tried to continue driving.
Three terrorist organizations claimed responsibility for the attack, but residents of Sur Baher, where Dwayat lived with his wife and two sons, said that Dwayat had no such connections.
According to reports, Dwayat appears to have acted alone and was not part of a terrorist organization. He did have a criminal record, mainly for drug felonies and furniture theft, the Jerusalem Post quoted a police spokesman as saying.
A widow in denial
Sur Baher is an Arab village of some 15,000-20,000 residents that is part of Jerusalem. Surrounded by Jewish neighborhoods on three sides, an estimated 90 percent of its residents work in Jerusalem with Jewish Israelis.
Sitting in her living room, Dwayat's 20-year-old widow Jamilla seemed to be in denial on Thursday. Dressed in black, she was attended by her mother and female relatives and did not seem to have been crying.
"Hussam had an accident. He was a good man, a nice man," said Huda Dawash, Jamilla's mother. She said she told her daughter it was Allah's will.
Jamilla doesn't believe Husam is dead, another relative said.
Jamilla, who married at 15, said she would continue to live in her house and raise her two boys, ages five and three. The apartment is part of a family home: Dwayat's parents live on the third floor and Jamilla on the second, as is customary in Middle Eastern culture.
The apartment, which has a commanding view of the neighboring Jewish area, is comfortably furnished. A picture of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount and verse from the Koran adorn the walls of the living room.
Huda said that Dwayat had been engaged to a Jewish woman but her parents had taken her away. She said it doesn't make sense that a man who was engaged to a Jewish woman would want to go and kill Jews.
Maher, 38, a father of five was sitting in a circle with other men and boys from the village outside the Dwayat home.
"Nothing was clear and no one knows what happened there. According to the television video, we think someone killed him intentionally... We are waiting for the results of the investigation," he said.
"We never thought about something like this, especially not from him. All his life he went from his house to work and from work to his house. He didn't have contact with anyone," Maher said. "If he wanted to commit a terror attack, he could have gone up on the bus and that would have been it -- 30-40 dead but he didn't do anything to the bus."
"All the village is in shock. We don't understand how this could happen. Usually things like this don't happen here," said one resident who gave his name as Mahmoud, 30, and said he is a truck driver.
"We don't know anything regarding the man. How he reacted. What they said to him. They said he took drugs. We don't know how something like this happened and we don't support this kind of thing at all. We're really sorry about everything that happened. We extend our condolences to the families of those killed. But there's nothing to do. It's not connected to us."
Mahmoud said he did not believe there were extremist elements like Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the village. Dwayat was not a religious man and wasn't connected to terrorist elements, he said. "It was his own idea," he said. It was a shame they killed him and didn't just stop him, he said.
"Everyone here supports peace -- only peace. They want to live; they want to enjoy life. They don't have anything against the state (Israel)," said Mahmoud, even if the state does things against them.
The attack highlighted again the intricate balance of co-existence that exists between the city's Jewish and Arab residents, where Israel has maintained sovereignty over the entire city since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Jerusalem Arabs carry blue Israeli identity cards, allowing them to travel freely throughout the city (and country). They have all the social benefits of Israelis and vote in municipal elections - though they complain that their infrastructure and educational system are not on par with Jewish residents of the city. Many work together with Israeli Jews or within or interface with the Israeli governmental or educational systems or business sector.
Reserve Col. Reuven Berko, who recently ended a 10-year stint as the Arab Affairs Adviser to the Jerusalem police, said that Arabs are living in Jerusalem under a "formula of co-existence" in the united city.
"Of course they will never stop being Palestinians. They will never turn into Zionists," Berko told Cybercast News Service . "[But] they prefer our hell to Palestinian paradise."
Berko said he did not believe that there was a "new trend" developing whereby Jerusalem Arabs would want to start carrying out terror attacks against Israel.
But he said that Jerusalem Arabs are exposed to "intensive incitement," not only in the schools and mosques but also through satellite television -- where they can tune into Hezbollah and Hamas television - as well as through the Internet.
Palestinian radical groups concentrate on making chaos in Jerusalem. Places like Sur Baher and other Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem are exposed to intensive recruiting activity from radical Islamic groups, said Berko.
The majority of Jerusalem Arabs are ordinary people who just want to live quietly, and although they are hesitant to admit it publicly, they prefer to live under Israeli authority, he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held consultations with his senior advisors following the attack on Wednesday and said there was no way to "fence-off the Arabs of east Jerusalem and every home of a potential terrorist."
But he said that terror attacks by Arabs from eastern Jerusalem had to be stopped, even if that meant demolishing culprits' homes as a means of deterrence, Israeli press reports quoted him as saying.
Shortly after Wednesday's attack, the Israeli Knesset passed the preliminary reading of two related bills: one would strip terrorists and those belonging to terrorist organizations of their citizenship and a second would prohibit the erection of a mourning tent for terrorists.
Berko said that he favors the idea of demolishing the homes of terrorists, not for the sake of revenge but as a punishment for their acts and as a means of deterrence, provided the individual's home is isolated from that of others.
If Israel allows this incident to pass without taking any action, it will encourage others to do the same, said Berko.
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