x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Hamas man arrested over murder of Arab-Israeli actor Juliano Mer Khamis

Several suspects being interrogated as UN's Middle East envoy and Palestinian PM condemn killing of Juliano Mer Khamis in West Bank town of Jenin by a masked gunman.

Palestinian women at the Freedom Theatre in Jenin weep after the death of the actor and director Juliano Mer-Khamis (inset).
Palestinian women at the Freedom Theatre in Jenin weep after the death of the actor and director Juliano Mer-Khamis (inset).

RAMALLAH // A Palestinian security official said yesterday that police had arrested a Hamas member in connection with the assassination of the Arab-Israeli actor and director Juliano Mer Khamis in the West Bank town of Jenin on Monday.

"One of those arrested is a prime suspect in the killing. He belongs to Hamas and is being interrogated," said the official, who declined to be named. The police are controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

The governor of Jenin, Qaddoura Moussa, also declined to reveal details about the suspect in Monday's killing of Mer Khamis, 52, who was shot dead by a masked gunman, but he added that a number of other suspects had been held and were later released.

"The security forces have arrested a number of people, there is an ongoing investigation," Mr Moussa said.

Mer Khamis, the son of a Jewish mother and Christian Arab father, ran the Freedom Theatre in Jenin's refugee camp in the northern West Bank for several years. He was driving his car near the theatre with his infant son and a babysitter when the gunman ordered him to pull over and shot him.

Palestinians in the Jenin area and in the West Bank seat of government in Ramallah held memorial vigils for Mer Khamis.

Qasem Ahmad from Jenin refugee camp said: "This is a sad day for the Palestinian people. You cannot find anyone here who is not against the killing except for the killer."

Mer Khamis' project generated hostility from some Palestinians. In an interview in 2009 after the Jenin theatre was torched he said: "We are under attack from a small group of people who think the arts are undermining the Palestinian struggle," he said.

"They put out leaflets calling me a Zionist Jew whose hands should be cut off."

His documentary titled Arna's Children, about his mother and the theatre group, won the Best Documentary Feature in the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival.

The Jenin refugee camp, where Mer Khamis lived with his partner and children, is home to some 16,000 Palestinians. It was the scene of some of the fiercest Palestinian-Israeli fighting in the second intifada in 2002.

The United Nations Middle East envoy, Robert Serry, said in a statement: "I am shocked and saddened by the murder of Juliano Mer Khamis. He was a unique, talented actor and director and was also a symbol of co-existence and peace."

The Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, condemned the murder as an "ugly crime".

Born in the Israeli-Arab city of Nazareth, served in the Israeli army as a paratrooper and portrayed Israeli Jews in many of his roles both in film and on stage.

Mer Khamis He appeared in almost 30 movies including The Little Drummer Girl, an American thriller made in 1984 based on the John Le Carre book of the same name that starred Diane Keaton.