Ali Zaghal read the mysterious text message early on Tuesday morning with dread: “Forgive me, brother.”
Minutes later, his 21-year-old brother Salam stabbed an Israeli settler waiting at a traffic circle in the occupied West Bank, killing him before being shot and arrested by soldiers.
While the family of the dead settler mourned their loss, the Zaghal family, living in poverty in the north of the Palestinian territory, defended Salam’s action as justified.
“It was destiny, and we take pride in him as a family. What he did is a duty for all Palestinians living with the aggression of the army and settlers,” his elderly father Assad said, sitting with glum relatives in a circle of plastic chairs.
The slaying of 31-year-old Eviatar Borovsky was the first time an Israeli had been killed by a Palestinian in the West Bank since 2011, when seven Israelis died, including a family of two settlers and their three young children all knifed to death.
Nine Palestinians have been shot and killed by Israeli soldiers this year, mostly during clashes with protesters.
While Salam’s deed may bring esteem to his family among some Palestinians, it may not erase an old taint in this run-down village - his brother Abdulfattah’s conviction by Palestinian authorities of spying for Israel.
Israeli security forces say they are investigating whether Salam’s attack was meant to clear the family name, something the family denies. Palestinian society reviles suspected spies and families seldom live down the shame of being linked to one.
The killing appears to encapsulate the contradictions of Palestinian politics in the West Bank - torn between working with a sworn enemy and lashing out violently against it.
OUTPOSTS AND OUTRAGE
Abdulfattah’s 10-year sentence was commuted out of mercy for the impoverished family, a security source said, and he was freed on bail pending an appeal after serving a year in jail.
“I’ve served a year. They said I was informing, but they’re totally wrong and they had no evidence,” said a pensive Abdulfattah, holding prayer beads in his sinewy arm.