Sunday, June 24, 2018

24-Jun-18: Chilling: In boasting of those she killed, the fugitive terrorist can barely control her excitement

Ahlam Tamimi lies, exaggerates, thrills to the excitement of murdering Israelis, and especially Jewish children. Here she is - the fugitive from US justice for whom the Kingdom of Jordan is prepared to risk everything, including the flagrant breaching of its 1995 Extradition  Treaty with its most important ally.


For background to the July 2012 Kuwaiti television interview of which the clip above is just an For background to the July 2012 Kuwaiti television interview of which the clip above is just an excerpt, see "5-May-13: Self-confessed jihadist murderer: "With my media card, I was able to enter back and forth, undetected..."

(Some of the sources for that 2013 post seem to have disappeared. Here's an archived version.)

The cold-blooded interviewer is a Kuwaiti Islamic preacher, Dr. Mohammed Al-Awadi. His popular TV program is entitled “Bayni wa Baynkom” ("Between Me and You").

Friday, June 22, 2018

22-Jun-18: At a sacred and ancient site, the bombs and attackers keep coming

Violence at the ancient and sacred Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hevron is in today's news - again (see "10-Feb-18: Two more Arab-on-Israeli stabbing attacks thwarted; both perpetrators are just 15" and "09-Feb-18: At the Tomb of Patriarchs, yet another thwarted Arab-on-Israeli stabbing attack" for some background.)
Here's what we know till now:
Israeli Border Police on Friday [today] said that they found two explosive devices in a courtyard of a home not far from the Tomb of the Patriarch’s in the West Bank City of Hebron. Police bomb disposal experts were called to the scene where they successfully neutralized the explosives without incident or injuries and "prevented any further danger to the units or to civilians," according to a police spokesman. The explosives were found in the courtyard of a home located next to one of the security check points where "security measures are implemented... Security measures continue in the area to prevent attacks of all kinds,” said police. ["Israeli police diffuse two explosive devices near Tomb of Patriarchs in Hebron", June 22, 2018, i24news.tv]
This happened three days earlier
An improvised explosive device was thrown at police guarding the entrance of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron Tuesday night, police said. The attacker fled the scene after throwing the bomb at border guards manning a station just outside the tomb. The device did not explode and there were no injuries. Police said they were searching the area for the perpetrator and had opened an investigation in the incident... In the area of the tomb, there is unique coexistence that the security forces, including border police, protect with the goal of allowing freedom of worship and religion to both Jews and Muslims at the Tomb of the Patriarchs,” police said in a statement after the incident. “The soldiers will continue to work with determination and professionalism to protect the security of all the citizens, residents and visitors to the site,” it said... ["Bomb thrown at border police at Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, no injuries", Times of Israel, June 20, 2018]
And eleven days ago
A bomb found near the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron was detonated by police on Sunday. Border police stationed outside of the ancient historic and religious site noticed the suspicious device and scrambled sappers to the area, clearing it of all civilians. The device, which included two small gas canisters, was blown up by the police bomb squad in a controlled explosion, near one of the entrances typically used by Muslims. Police launched an investigation, and issued a statement in which they promised to “protect the security of all the citizens, residents and visitors” to the Judea burial place of biblical forbears Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah.
According to local law enforcement, “in the area of the tomb, there is unique coexistence that the security forces, including border police, protect with the goal of allowing freedom of worship and religion to both Jews and Muslims at the Tomb of the Patriarchs.” ["Bomb near Tomb of the Patriarchs detonated by police", Jewish News Syndicate, June 11, 2018]
The Cave of Machpelah - part of the Tomb of the Patriarchs complex, is "the world's most ancient Jewish site and the second holiest place for the Jewish people, after Temple Mount in Jerusalem... Over 300,000 people visit Ma'arat HaMachpelah annually. The structure is divided into three rooms: Ohel Avraham, Ohel Yitzhak, and Ohel Ya'akov. Presently Jews have no access to Ohel Yitzhak, the largest room, with the exception of 10 days a year." [Jewish Virtual Library]

22-Jun-18: Jordan's king heading back to Washington. Is extradition on the agenda?

White House - April 5, 2017 [Image Source: Video]
From AFP last night
AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan’s King Abdullah II set off for the United States on Thursday for talks with US President Donald Trump on Middle East issues including the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the palace said. Accompanied by his wife Rania, the monarch is also scheduled to meet with senior officials from the Trump administration and members of Congress, the palace said in a statement. His meeting with Trump is expected to take place at the White House on Monday. The White House said in a statement that they would “discuss issues of mutual concern, including terrorism, the threat from Iran and the crisis in Syria, and working towards a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.” ["Jordan king heads to US to discuss peace plan with Trump", June 21, 2018]
Reuters says President Donald Trump "will welcome King Abdullah of Jordan to the White House on June 25", quoting the White House announcement.

Trump has hosted Abdullah at least three previous times since becoming president:
They seem to have developed some chemistry. Perhaps, if one or the other is listening, even a common language. 

Was the subject of the fugitive Jordan-resident terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, whom Jordan is obliged under its 1995 Extradition Treaty to send to the Washington DC, publicly mentioned at any of their previous get-togethers. As far as we know, no. (See "09-Feb-18: Acting slowly in Jordan and the United States?")

Is this deeply disturbing in terms of the determination of the US to defeat violent extremism - the State Department's preferred term for terrorism? Certainly. (See "18-Feb-15: Countering Vacuous Euphemisms").

Since Tamimi, who boasts of killing Israeli children of whom one is our daughter Malki, is an unrepentant Hamas agent who hosted a terrorism-inciting television program in Amman for a worldwide Arabic-speaking audience for five years, and benefits from extraordinary protection from King Abdullah, it's strange to us to note that "issues of mutual concern, including terrorism" are on the agenda.

So can we assume Tamimi's extradition is going to be discussed?

Monday, June 18, 2018

18-Jun-18: Large Hamas-aligned terror-attack-cell is busted in Nablus

Nablus [Image Source]
Uncommonly big by the standards of previous terror gang arrests, the discovery and busting of a highly active Hamas cell, operational since October 2017, was revealed yesterday (Sunday) after being suppressed since April by a court-imposed gag order.

The members of the gang had plans to carry out mass-scale bombings in Israel's major population centers.

Times of Israel reports: 
Israeli forces uncovered a large and highly active Hamas terror cell operating out of the Palestinian city of Nablus earlier this year that was allegedly planning to conduct a number of bombings and shooting attacks in Israel... The arrest of the more than 20 suspected cell members made this one of the largest busts by the Shin Bet in recent years... “In recent months, the Shin Bet, Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police uncovered a Hamas terror cell, extraordinary in its size and level of activity, which operated in the Nablus area... During the suspects’ interrogations by the Shin Bet, it was determined that the cell planned to carry out terrorist bombings in central cities in Israel and the northern West Bank, including a bombing in Tel Aviv, a suicide bombing and an explosive attack in Jerusalem, a bombing in the Itamar settlement and shooting attacks in the Samaria region,” the [Shin Bet] security service said... [It] arrested more than 20 suspected members of the Hamas cell in late April, including its two leaders: Mutassem Muhammad Salem, 35, and Fares Kamil Zebidi, 33. ["Shin Bet: Israel busted large Hamas cell planning Jerusalem, Tel Aviv bombings", Times of Israel, June 17, 2018]
Nablus, called Shechem in Hebrew and mentioned numerous times in Scripture, is about 50 km north of Jerusalem and has a mainly-Moslem population today of about 126,500. It's the second largest Palestinian Arab city in the area they call the West Bank.

Beyond being affiliated with Hamas, the terror cell, via its leader Salem, is thought to have had connections with the Syria-based terrorists Tahrir al-Sham, previously known as the Nusra Front.

The two indictments that were filed in the military court on Sunday are only the first in this bust. Others are expected to be filed in the coming days, with the expectation of more revelations. 

Most Israelis don't need much convincing to know that terrorist desires are deeply implanted and active in the Palestinian Arab communities bordering Israel's centers of population. Outside Israel, as Sunday's revelations show, there is far less awareness: so far at least, the scale of non-Israeli media interest in reporting the Nablus bust has been trivial-to-none.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

14-Jun-18: In Jerusalem's Shuafat, an explosion reveals a secret bomb workshop

The source caption reads: "The Shuafat Refugee Camp from the
Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev, in northeast Jerusalem.
(Miriam Alster/Flash90 )
" [Image Source]
As we write this, there has been very little media attention - and practically none outside Israel - but to us it seems a serious development. 

As reported this morning (Thursday) by the Jerusalem Post ["Police: Explosion in East Jerusalem Caused by Bomb-Making Attempt", June 14, 2018], an explosion last night in the Shuafat neighbourhood of north Jerusalem (it's not really east) was the result of a failed attempt to build an explosive device.

Israel Police investigators, arriving on the scene around 11:00 pm, found additional explosive material in the fourth-floor apartment where the explosion happened. Eight suspects are now under arrest and being interrogated. No names have been released so far, and none of their affiliations (affiliations are a big deal in reporting on terrorism). One individual suffered critical injuries in the explosion and was hospitalized. Another man is much less injured.

That part of Shuafat is usually termed "refugee camp" in media reports. In reality, it's a suburban neighborhood of Jerusalem which is served by the indispensable Jerusalem Light Rail's one and only line (in fact, the light rail system's eastern terminus is at Shuafat).

And while it's certainly not the most gorgeous part of town, it's not exactly a concentration camp as we showed in a post some years ago ["07-Nov-14: Hovels? Shanties? A Palestinian Arab refugee camp"]. It's separated from the rest of the city by the meandering West Bank security barrier and that has a negative impact on easy of access - not to their own communities but to ours - and on law and order. You can get a sense of the questions that arise, and the absence of answers, here: "Stuck between Israel and the PA, Shuafat refugee camp seethes"[ Avi Issacharoff in Times of Israel, June 7, 2015]. Can UNRWA help them? Can the PA? Hamas? It hardly matters because the mess that is Shuafat today seems to serve the needs of all of them.

In that 2014 post of ours, we wrote:
Paradise? No, not at all. But hardly a shanty town either, and very little like what people imagine when the term 'refugee camp' is deployed to describe the place.
As today's Jerusalem Post article points out, a substantial spike in terrorist activity was reported in Shuafat after the separation barrier was established, and that became even more pronounced once the “knife intifada” got going in 2015. Click here to see what we have reported about troubles emanating from Shuafat.

The Jerusalem Light Rail has come under frequent attack inside and
from Shuafat. This scene is from riots right on the tracks in Shuafat in
July 2014 [Getty Images]
The tensions in that part of Jerusalem are no secret. The police leaving the scene last night got involved in what are being called clashes with local residents - who were rioting - but a Jerusalem Police spokesman said no injuries were reported.

We're not aware of any Palestinian Arab sources who seem to see the connection among (a) the riots that meet Israeli service providers; (b) the steady stream of Arab-on-Israeli terrorist activities carried out by Shuafat residents; (c) the passion of those residents to be entirely disconnected from Israeli control; and (d) the low level of Israeli services being provided to the neighborhood.

Monday, June 11, 2018

11-Jun-18: A young woman is a multiple-stabbing victim in Afula; the assailant fled and is caught [Developing]

Video still shows the moment the alleged stabber,
still in possession of his knife, is shot and
stopped [Source video]
Local news reports starting just before noon today (Monday) said there had been a serious stabbing incident in the Israeli city of Afula. The victim is a still-unnamed young woman in her late teens (that's an estimate by the medical personnel) and the attacker, who feld the scene and was then caught by security personnel, is a Palestinian Arab from Jenin.

Not surprisingly, the suspicions being raised at this hour in the media point to this being a terror attack. But no official statement to that effect has issued yet.

As told by Israel National News
An Israeli teenager is in serious condition after being stabbed multiple times in the northern city of Afula Monday afternoon. The incident occurred outside of the local Aroma cafe at around noon on Monday. The 18-year-old woman who was stabbed was treated by MDA emergency first responders dispatched to the scene. Medical teams then evacuated the victim to HaEmek Medical Center in Afula in very serious condition. Police have opened an investigation into the stabbing incident, and are currently investigating if the attack was in fact terror-related...
Her condition when this was first reported is defined as moderate-to-serious and she is getting emergency treatment at HaEmek hospital in  Afula.

Times of Israel says
Police arrested her suspected attacker, who had fled the scene, after a brief manhunt. The suspect was identified by police as a Palestinian man in his 30s from the northern West Bank city of Jenin. “Police shot the suspect in the leg after calling upon him to stop,” a police spokesperson said. “The suspect was arrested with a knife in his possession.” Police said they were working to determine the motive for the stabbing. Videos of the suspected terrorist’s arrest were quickly posted to social media by bystanders.
Here for instance.

More details when we know them.

Friday, June 01, 2018

01-Jun-18: On watching our child's killer

Some people wonder why Tamimi has such an enthusiastic
following. We're not so puzzled.
Imagine what it must be like to endure a loved child's violent death and then see the killer's face in front of you: unhindered, alive, well, thriving, a celebrity boasting to others about what a blessed thing she did.

Not such a common thing but in our case it doesn't take much imagination. It's part of our lives, a stressful and painful matter of routine.

The name of Ahlam Tamimi, our daughter Malki's murderer, will be familiar to people who follow our blog. Tamimi was convicted on her open confession for the central role she had in the 2001 massacre at Jerusalem's Sbarro pizzeria. She was sentenced by an Israeli judicial tribunal to 16 consecutive terms of life imprisonment. But she walked free in October 2011 - not because she was pardoned, not because she repented, not because the court changed its mind.

She was a beneficiary of the catastrophic Shalit Deal which brought about the unwarranted (and eventually lethal) release from Israeli top security prisons of no fewer than 1,027 Arab terrorists, the majority of whom were there for having killed or tried to kill Israelis and/or Arabs.

Two days after her release, Tamimi was re-settled in her homeland, Jordan. Shortly after that, we started work on asking the US government to bring serious charges against her under its laws. Our daughter Malki was a US citizen.

Early last year, a US Federal criminal complaint against Tamimi was unsealed in Washington DC ["14-Mar-17: Sbarro massacre mastermind is now formally charged and extradition is sought"].

The same day, the FBI announced she was being immediately added to its Most Wanted Terrorists list, and that the US was asking the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to extradite her under the provisions of the Clinton-era Jordan/US Extradition Treaty of 1995.

Fifteen months later, she is still on the FBI's list; the charges against her remain pending, though she needs to be in the US for the US courts to do their work; and Jordan flatly refuses to extradite her.

In fact, a Jordanian court has ruled that the treaty is of no effect, and never took effect. It blamed some narrow and technical factors that the US lawyers and criminal justice officials we have consulted dismiss as nonsense and that could have been fixed, if they existed at all, by Jordan alone. Our own research has turned up at least three separate cases where Jordan did extradite its own nationals to face serious criminal charges in the US.

An October 2017 commentary published by the respected National Security Law Brief says
Jordan's positions are without merit... the United States should not give up on attempting to extradite Al-Tamimi. If other countries place enough pressure on Jordan due to concerns of Al-Tamimi’s danger and susceptibility to planning another attack, Jordan may change its position... Jordan should reconsider its position and permit extradition in the case of Al-Tamimi for the safety of Jordanians, and citizens of other nations that may be subject to another attack by Al-Tamimi. Thwarting extradition not only violates the principle of comity, but it also perpetuates the international danger presented by Al-Tamimi... ["Pressure on Jordan: Refusal to extradite mastermind of deadly 2001 Sbarro suicide bombing in Jerusalem contravenes international law and agreements", Michelle Munneke, October 28, 2017]
Nonsense or not, Jordan seems to be at ease with this self-confessed mass-murderer among its citizens, living freely and unhampered in its capital, playing an active role in that country's public life. Our efforts to get Jordan's foreign minister, other vocal members of Jordan's government, and Jordan's diplomats in Washington to justify Jordan's scandalous approach have produced what we feared: silence.

We have some pots on the cooker and are quietly hopeful that the day is not far off when Ahlam Tamimi appears before the US justice system and has to answer to the law.

We also claim some credit for a bounty that was announced by the State Department five months ago ["31-Jan-18: There's now a $5 million reward for bringing the terrorist Ahlam Tamimi to justice"] but has not yet been awarded though there's no secret about where Tamimi and her family live.

Meanwhile, Tamimi remains - as we warned she would be in the months and years leading up to her extorted freedom - a highly visible spokesperson, an idolized advocate for the Islamist brand of terrorism and for bigotry directed at Jews, a constant and persuasive pro-terror voice spreading her brand of jihad in receptive circles.

(Among the scores of instances of what we said publicly back then, see "13-Oct-11: Roth explains to Australia's AM why the release of murderers is so bad [audio]"; "19-Oct-11: Haaretz: Shalit prisoner swap marks 'colossal failure' for mother of Israeli bombing victim"; "17-Nov-11: A monster walks the streets and she has many accomplices").

For five years, Tamimi fronted a heavily-promoted, made-in-Jordan terror-advocacy television program called “نسيم الأحرار” (transliteration: “ Nassem al-Ahrar” or “Breezes of the Free”) on one of the global Hamas TV stations. Beamed weekly by satellite and internet to large audiences, this turned her into a personality throughout the Arabic-speaking world.

Tamimi is an extremist who sees herself part of a war pitting her religion against others, in particular against the Jews. Not a philosophical war or an abstract clash-of-cultures battle but an actual blood-and-guts war in which people are physically conquered and killed. You can watch her being explicit about this in a video here: "08-Oct-17: Why kill religious Jewish children? Because, says Hamas celebrity-jihadist, this is a religious struggle".

For reasons worth exploring, though not here and now, she seemed to be less obvious and lower-profile in recent months. But spring has a been a busy time for her. Here she is addressing the Association of Palestinian Women Abroad in Jordan just a month ago:

Tamimi, in the white kerchief , is standing in the middle
As thrilling as enjoying the live presence of the woman who overcame the Zionists must have been to the ladies group, Tamimi played the central role in a significantly more impactful appearance just a few days later on May 8, 2018.

That's when one of the numerous arms of Hamas - equipped for reasons that baffle us with a working Twitter presence that has attracted more than 300,000 followers - ran this video clip (Tamimi comes on after about 15 seconds). It calls our daughter's murderer "the liberated prisoner Ahlam al-Tamimi" and it captures her delivering a message to the students of Birzeit University.

(It's archived here in case, you know, it gets lost at some point.)

Click the image above to view the video

Screen grab from the video
Translated to English by a friendly native-Arabic speaker, she is saying to the students:
“This phase is the phase of your persistence. The future is yours and the dawn smiles on you. God is with you and God’s eye protects you.”
She's in comfortable territory when addressing the Birzeit students. In 2001, Tamimi was herself a student of journalism at Birzeit University. Its website offers this self-description:
What began as a small girls’ school in Birzeit town has become the most prestigious Palestinian university, transforming Palestinian higher education through its impact on community awareness, culture and resistance. Birzeit University has been a thorn in the side of the occupation, insisting on playing its role of enlightenment and creating a multicultural Palestinian society on the campus grounds.
Ramallah where it is located has been ruled by the Palestinian Authority since the early nineties and serves today as the de facto administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority. Nonetheless it's only too clear what the Birzeit authorities mean by their references to "resistance" and being "a thorn in the side of the occupation".

It's also clear what Tamimi, Hamas' first female jihadist, speaking via a Hamas-mouthpiece Twitter account, means when she refers to the future belong to the students and the almighty being with them and protecting them. She is an advocate for murdering Jews and Israelis. As she has said many times in public, she thinks others should do it too.

When it comes to Ahlam Tamimi, this is no mere polemic. Her audience understands that she is free despite masterminding a massacre. In her customary religion-centric language, she is urging them to do the same, assuring them of the same divine protection that her life exemplifies.

What sort of impact does explicit incitement of the Tamimi kind have on university students?

It's a question that ought to be asked by the various foreign universities that have "international partnership" arrangements with Birzeit. As the list here on the Birzeit website show, they include campuses in Spain, Belgium, Latvia, Malta, Greece, United Kingdom (including Middlesex University,  and the University of Salford), Italy, Norway, Bulgaria, Estonia, Iceland, Ireland, Austria and Germany.

The Arabic version of Birzeit's Wikipedia entry lists under the heading "Students and Graduates" the names of prominent terrorists including Tamimi herself along with Yahya Ayyash, Hamas'  most famous bomb-maker (now deceased) and Marwan Barghouti, serving multiple life sentences for terrorism and murder. (None of them is mentioned in the English-language Wikipedia entry for Birzeit, though it does mention that "Hanan Ashrawi taught literature there".

Jordan is an ally of the United States. A March 2018 "Fact Sheet" issued by the State Department and entitled "U.S. Security Cooperation With Jordan" calls the Hashemite Kingdom
a critical and close partner for the United States in the Middle East with which we share a number of important strategic goals. Jordan has been a staunch U.S. ally in the global effort to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other terrorist groups. Jordan is also a close partner with the United States on a range of diplomatic and security challenges throughout the region, among them the crisis in Syria, combating violent extremism, and advancing Middle East peace. Jordan’s stability and security is a priority for the United States, which has provided assistance to Jordan... 
Then there's also this:

Jordan has treaty obligations to the US and seeks - successfully so far - to avoid them in the specific case of the murderer of Jewish children and Israeli citizens even as it agrees to extradite other Jordanian felons whose victims weren't Jews or Israelis.

And this:

Jordan provides a safe haven for one of the highest-profile individual propagandists for Hamas' brand of Islamist terror currently active.

If Jordan respects its US ally, it ought to be acting very differently and the US ought to be letting the Jordanian regime know what is expected of it. If Tamimi is a test, up until now there can be little doubt the jihadists are ahead.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

30-May-18: In Belgium, another murderous "lone-wolf" attack by a criminal already on the police watch list

Soraya Belkacemi, left, and Lucille Garcia, right,
the two police officers murdered in the attack [Image Source]
In Belgium, a pointless act of terror inspired by one man's religious fervor resulted in the deaths on Tuesday of several innocents and some questions that don't seem likely to be properly answered quickly.

The basic facts as gleaned from Irish Times and Standard UK:
  • Benjamin Herman, a Belgian man of 36 described in reports as a petty criminal and drug dealer who was serving time in prison, was let out Monday on what some reports have called a day-release for "family leave". (Reuters calls it a two-day pass.) One source says he "was due to travel back to his home town of Rochfort, just 40 miles from Liege". But didn't.
  • Instead he attacked two police officers, women of 45 and 53, from behind about at about 10.30am on a lovely late spring morning on a pleasant boulevard in the centre of Liege, Belgium’s third city. Those two victims are Soraya Belkacemi, 53, and Lucille Garcia, 45. Their work involved checking parking meters. Soraya Belkacemi was the mother of 13-year-old twin daughters who earlier lost their father, also a police officer, and are now tragically orphaned of both parents.
  • First slashing their throats from behind, he then stabbed them both and succeeded in seizing their handguns. (Evidently parking meter officers carry guns in Belgium.)
  • A young man sitting in a car nearby was his next victim: he shot him dead too. He is Cyril Vangriecken, 22.
  • The armed attacker then rushed into a high school building about 100 meters away and took two female employees hostage; one of them was a cleaner. He used her as a human shield in the subsequent confrontation with armed authorities. (He also, it is reported, "spared the life of the high school janitor he took hostage because she is Muslim, according to the woman, who was hailed Wednesday for her courage as she faced off with the madman.")
  • Police were called. The school's children were evacuated as a gun battle erupted in which the prisoner managed to wound four of the police officers before they shot him dead.
  • La Libre Belgique newspaper quoting police source says the Moslem attacker shouted “Allahu Akbar” – “God is greatest” in Arabic. Irish Times says Beaupère declined to comment when asked about that.
  • According to De Standaard, a Flemish-language newspaper in Belgium, police suspect he also carried out the murder a day earlier of "a criminal associate whose body was found south of Liege".
  • So is he a terrorist? The authorities are being cagey. "Prime Minister Charles Michel says Herman was indirectly mentioned in state security reports on radicalization, but did not have his name on a list maintained by an anti-terror assessment group" according to USNews.
Cyril Vangriecken, 22, shot dead while sitting in a parked car
[Image Source]
Some questions that come to mind:
  • According to state broadcaster RTBF Herman, who was born in 1982, had a criminal record that included a number of convictions for theft, assault and drugs offences.
  • A Belgian politician, Georges Dallemagne, quoted by Irish Times, said Herman was already on a police watch-list arising from his radicalization in jail and his conversion there to Islam. So why was he freed unsupervised? How realistic was it that he would peacefully come back to his prison cell?
  • There's more disturbing background according to one newspaper source. He "had been jailed numerous times"; he "appeared in national security documents"; he was "extremely violent" according to prison officers. Does this amount to a profile? Does it trigger any defensive measures on behalf of society?
  • Liege police chief Christian Beaupère told a news conference “The goal of the assassin was to target the police”. Is this based on something they knew ahead of time? Were precautions taken? Did the two murdered officers know he was nearby? And is that a full and complete statement of the motivation for this cowardly, worthless explosion of lethal violence?
  • The police chief was asked to confirm that the killer shouted “Allahu Akbar” in the course of his moments in the sun. M. Beaupère declined to comment on the question.
  • These are not the first murders of innocents carried out by petty criminals inspired to Islamist violence while incarcerated. 
  • Reuters: "The national crisis centre, on high alert since attacks by Islamic State in Paris and Brussels in recent years, said it had not raised its alert level – an indication the man was acting alone and follow-up attacks were not expected." So does Belgium have a strategy for dealing with lone-wolf attacks? They're not entirely mysterious, after all - they have some glaring factors in common. Do the authorities know this? No one ought to subscribe to the view that all members of any specific faith community are plotting to murder people, but are there any patterns worth taking into account when safe-guarding cities and populations?
  • The politician Georges Dallemagne, who evidently [Irish Times] sits on several Belgian parliamentary security committees, tweeted: “The supervision of radicalised prisoners remains tragically flawed.” How concerned are Belgians to change that dangerous state of affairs?
After the murders [Image Source]
The phenomenon of the lone wolf is not a new one [click for past "Lone Wolf" posts of ours] and no more mysterious than any other aspect of criminology. Too often, public officials seem to use the term after criminal attacks have thrust them into the news by implying that if it's a "lone wolf" attack, what do you want from us? And if radicalization - to use the polite and somewhat vague term that most of the news industry does - is a factor, why aren't there more indications in the media of what's being done to identify individuals who have undergone it? 

Which is more problematic: avoiding any public discussion of it? Or burying its victims and comforting their families?

And let's agree that Belgium, with its vast problems involving terror and lone wolves acting individually as well as in large, well-organized packs, is only slightly different from most of Europe. And not only Europe.

UPDATE Wednesday May 30, 2018 at 11:00 pm: According to this report, ISIS, the Islamic State terror group today claimed one of its “soldiers” carried out the murder of the two policewomen and a student in Liege, quoting the jihadists' Amaq propaganda agency. “The author of the attack on the city of Liege in Belgium is a soldier of the Islamic State,” IS said in a statement published on Amaq’s Telegram account a day after the attack. It said “he led the attack in response to calls to target the countries of the US-led international coalition” which is fighting the jihadist group mainly in Syria.

Monday, May 28, 2018

28-May-18: Names and identities: A Jerusalem battlefield

Earlier today we tweeted this famous 1948 image, originally
photographed by the remarkable John Roy Carlson [Source]
It won't be surprising to regular readers when we say that we keep an eye on what the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan does. And that we wish people would pay closer attention to some of the disturbing things that emanate from there.

An article in yesterday's Jordan Times ["Changing Arabic names of Jerusalem heritage sites is attempt to ‘Judaise’ city - study", May 27, 2018] provides an illustration. (The emphasis is ours):
The Israeli occupation has changed the Arabic names of 667 archaeological and heritage sites in Jerusalem with the aim of “Judaising the city” and “erasing its historical and religious identity”, according to a recent study.
“Replacing the Arabic names is part of a long-term and systematic attempt to distort facts and falsify the real identity of the holy city until the future generation forgets its Arab and Islamic identity,” Ibrahim Bazazo, researcher and dean of the Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality at the University of Jordan told The Jordan Times on Sunday.
The study was conducted over the course of three years by Jordanians Omar Jawabreh, Mohammad Sarayreh, Haitham Abdelraza and Bazazo, under the title “Towards Sustainable Documentation of Geographical Names of Touristic and Heritage Sites in Occupied Jerusalem Using Geographical Information System [GIS]”. Researchers used documents dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, including holy books, historical and geographical atlases..."
It goes on in this vein, accusing the enemy of "forcing a ‘Judaised’ identity" and blaming "the Israeli occupation" for replacing "Arabic names not only from all signs and banners but also from school books and official curricula". (The very loaded issue of school books offers an egregious example of a Jordanian talent for skating on thin ice.)

Perhaps to bolster the mean-spirited and essentially untrue Jordanian allegations with a little gravitas, the government-controlled newspaper refers to certain thoughts of its ruler:
During the Extraordinary Session of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held in Istanbul earlier this month, His Majesty King Abdullah called for “immediate measures by brotherly Arab and Muslim countries to support the perseverance of Palestinians and empower them economically, while countering attempts to Judaise Jerusalem and alter its Arab, Islamic, and Christian identity”.
Reacting to the assault on this Arab, Islamic, and Christian identity, an associate professor at Yarmouk University, Omar Al Ghul, is quoted saying:
"We cannot deny the Judaisation processes which are evidenced by the existence of a special committee in the Knesset to change the Arabic names..."
He could be referring to Israel's Government Committee on Names (ועדת השמות הממשלתית) whose work which got started right after Israel's independence 70 years ago is mostly done by now. It has had responsibility for giving places Hebrew names when there are no such modern names. The English-language stub of the Hebrew Wikipedia entry for the committee calls it
a public committee appointed by the Government of Israel, which deals with the designation of names for communities and other points on the map of Israel, and the replacement of Arabic names that existed until 1948 with Hebrew names. The committee's decisions bind state institutions...
It's not clear to us why a sovereign state ought to be criticized for wanting to change the names of places that were given Arabic and/or Turkish names under long-overturned foreign military occupation.

In any event, an academic lawyer whom we consulted informally about the committee's work told us
There’s nothing in international law about names per se. One can always try to stitch together a clever argument that it is part of a bigger plan of genocide or apartheid or whatever the Jewish evil du jour is. The Hebrew [Wikipedia] entry’s claim on the purpose of the committee being the replacement of Arabic names that existed until 1948 appears to be editorializing. The entry quotes Ben Gurion as saying להרחיק את השמות הערבים מטעמים מדיניים: כשם שאין אנו מכירים בבעלותם הפוליטית של הערבים על הארץ, כן אין אנו מכירים בבעלותם הרוחנית ובשמותיהם" but no source is provided, and in any event it does not seem to be part of the official charge of the committee.
That Hebrew quote of B-G's, in our words: "To remove Arab names for political reasons: Just as we don't recognize Arab political ownership of the land, so too we don't recognize their spiritual ownership or their names..."

Back to the Jordanians. The dean of the Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality at the University of Jordan weighs in with some views in yesterday's article. He gets credit as one of the researchers of the "Judaization" study, though not as a lawyer. This doesn't prevent him from dispensing legal advice:
“It is now the role of government institutions and civil society organisations to use the research data and take action to stop the Judaisation of Jerusalem,” the researcher said, stressing: “We should speak out to the international institutions and the International Court of Justice to ensure that our identity is preserved and protected.”
Jerusalem, December 1956 during Jordanian military occupation
[Image Source: Getty]
It's startling to hear Jordanian officials refer to international organizations as providing them with backing and their claims with validation. Jordan's utterly devastating impact on Jerusalem when it ruled the city via a deadly military occupation for nearly two decades ending in 1967 is remembered with considerable bitterness here.

Its ruling family from when Jordan was carved out of Mandatory Palestine in the 1920s, the Hashemites from the place we today call Saudi Arabia, presided over massive, merciless elimination of almost every sign of Jewish presence and history once the British-led Arab Legion overwhelmed Jerusalem's Jewish defenders in 1948:
While Christian holy sites were protected, and Muslim holy sites were maintained and renovated, Jewish holy sites were damaged and sometimes destroyed. According to Raphael Israeli, 58 synagogues were desecrated or demolished in the Old City, resulting in the de-Judaization of Jerusalem. The Western Wall was transformed into an exclusively Muslim holy site associated with al-Buraq. 38,000 Jewish graves in the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives were systematically destroyed, and Jews were not allowed to be buried there. This was all in violation of the Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement... Following the Arab Legion's expulsion of the Jewish residents of the Old City in the 1948 War, Jordan allowed Arab Muslim refugees to settle in the vacated Jewish Quarter. Later, after some of these were moved to Shu'afat, migrants from Hebron took their place. During the 1960s, as the quarter continued to fall into decay, Jordan planned to turn the quarter into a public park... ["Islamization of East Jerusalem under Jordanian occupation", Wikipedia - accessed today]
We snapped the image above in 2012; it originally appeared in this post
For more about the rank hypocrisy of the Jordanians and the Palestinian Arabs (ah, but we're repeating ourselves), see this six year old post of ours that still has some fresh things to say: "26-Feb-12: A moment to think about Jerusalem".

Here are a few sentences from there about one of the last prominent visual reminders of that dark and awful chapter:
Half of this city was captured by the army of the Jordanian king during Israel's desperate war of survival in 1948. Jordanian forces then set about destroying and desecrating anything Jewish on which they could lay their hands. The United Nations and other international agencies (to their eternal shame) did nothing to prevent or condemn this or the fact that the Jordanians prohibited access by Jews to all of the holy sites under their control. Then, in an unconscionable act of self-tribute, the Jordanian king built himself a large mansion on a Jerusalem hill-top that we can see as we type these words. Ostensibly a tribute to his dominion over a city holy to three religions, it serves as an indictment of his hypocrisy and that of the nations of the world who were evidently content with what was done by and in the name of the Hashemite regime to eastern Jerusalem and its historical and religious uniqueness during those nineteen miserable years.
The war of 1967 that was explicitly intended to drive the Israeli Jews into the sea (a euphemism for mass killing) resulted in the east and west parts of Jerusalem being reunited under Israeli rule. The city began to flourish in ways that it had not for two thousand years. Its splendour today is greater than at any time in the past. The freedoms it offers its residents and visitors in 2012 are the polar opposite of how things were when the Jordanians ruled.
The palace that King Hussein ordered built in his own honour on one of the highest points in Jerusalem still stands today. But it was never completed and remains an empty, dilapidated shell. Empty shell also happens to be an accurate way to characterize the undertakings Jordan gave in the framework of the 1949 Armistice Agreement to allow "free access to the holy sites and cultural institutions and use of the cemeteries on the Mount of Olives." 
No one is going to lose too much sleep in our part of the world because of Jordanian huffing and puffing over the names of places they continue to dream of dominating - and of destroying. 

28-May-18: Sorry for the long quiet

We normally blog-post pretty frequently but we've been distracted with a string of personal matters that have slowed us down. Sorry to anyone who's disappointed. We hope to pick up the pace today and in the coming days.

Friday, May 11, 2018

11-May-18: An Arab-on-Israel vehicle ramming this afternoon

Just as the Sabbath siren is being heard here in Jerusalem, we are learning of another Arab-on-Israeli vehicle ramming attack that happened late this afternoon.

A soldier aged about 20, as yet unnamed, is lightly injured, says Times of Israel quoting a Samaria Regional Council spokesperson, when he was struck near the Israeli community of Shavei Shomron just before 6 this afternoon. The young man was treated by Magen David Adom ambulance personnel at the scene and then taken to hospital for further treatment.

The IDF's investigations support the idea that this was a terror attack, and the driver who fled the scene with his vehicle is now the subject of a manhunt.

We are also hearing of a second suspected vehicle ramming attack that happened around 6:35 pm in the Har Hevron vicinity. More details after the Sabbath.

UPDATE Saturday night, May 12, 2018: This is what the Chinese newsagency Xinhua knows:
A car hit a soldier at the Ganot Interchange adjacent to Shavei Shomron, west of Nablus. The driver fled the scene, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement. "Forces are searching for it," said the IDF. A second ramming attack took place near Hebron, where a driver attempted but failed to hit a soldier at a checkpoint, and the driver was arrested, Israeli media reported.
Still hoping to have more details to share.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

08-May-18: War crimes, incendiary neighbors

Image Source
People who have suffered the usually-minor indignity of having passers-by or neighbors flick a still-lit cigarette into their homes or gardens will have an advantage in relating to the latest technological 'breakthrough' to emerge from Gaza.

As Ynet reported on Monday evening ["Incendiary balloons from Gaza cause damage to Israeli fields", May 07, 2018]
Several incendiary balloons flown from the Gaza Strip on Monday afternoon caused fires in seven different locations on the Israeli side of the border. No one was hurt, but great damage was caused... The incendiary balloons, like incendiary kites, are affixed with an already-lit Molotov cocktail [fire bomb]... The westerly winds push the balloons, which are filled with helium gas, towards Israel. After a short while in the air, the fire from the Molotov cocktail causes the balloon to explode in midair, with the incendiary contraption dropping to the ground. The IDF has been working on a solution to thwart these contraptions by intercepting them using drones before they can land in Israel and cause damage.

At this point, we know of one such incendiary device igniting wheat fields on the land of Kibbutz Mefalsim in the Shaar HaNegev Regional Council. Another landed in the Eshkol region's Be'eri Forest, setting off a blaze. With spring turning to summer and harvest time, the economic losses are significant to the agricultural communities attacked by the Palestinian Arabs.

An incendiary kite flown Wednesday from the Gaza Strip by Palestinian terrorists caused a huge fire in the Be'eri Forest in southern Israel that continued to rage into the evening. No casualties were reported. The conflagration is the biggest to have erupted since Palestinians in the strip began flying the incendiary kites across the border. By 7:30pm, the fire continued to slowly reduce hundreds of dunams of woodland to ash, as ten firefighter teams scrambled to contain it, battling high temperatures, dry weather and strong easterly winds that fanned the flames. Incendiary kites are the latest improvised weapon to have been added to the Palestinian rioters' arsenal as part of the weekly "March of Return" protests on the Gaza Border, enabling Palestinian rioters to wreak havoc on Israel's southern towns without approaching the border fence and risking their lives.  Around three to four of the kites are sent across the Gaza-Israel border each day, and have so far incinerated agricultural lands in Israel's southern region, with wheat fields being set aflame and ecological damage caused to the country. 
Shedding some dim light on the state of mind of the pyromaniacs, images of Gazan kites (like the one below) festooned with Nazi swastikas accompany many of the reports.
Image Source: AP
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court - the treaty that established it and entered into force on 1 July 2002 - defines destroying the environment, even if no one is killed, as a war crime. In September 2016, the ICC prosecution issued a policy directive stating that it would place a special priority on prosecuting war crimes against the environment, something it had never done until then.

Hard not to notice the tone of pride and enthusiasm as certain media outlets report on the incendiary attacks by Gazan Palestinian Arabs. "Palestinian ‘Fire Kites’ Spark Huge Blaze in Zionist Settlements near Gaza Border" [Al Manar, May 02, 2018] for instance, and "Flaming kites mark fifth Friday of Gaza protests" [Mondoweiss, April 29, 2018].

Almost as if burning down the neighhbours' crops - or setting mountains of rubber tires ablaze and generating carcinogenic smoke and fumes - will get the attackers a better life. 

Sunday, May 06, 2018

06-May-18: Explosive weekend in Gaza

Shortly after Saturday's explosion [Image Source]
The terrorists of Hamas are expressing fury over two fatal Gaza events involving their agents in the past 24 hours.

Just before 3 this afternoon (Sunday), reports emerged of another infiltration attempt by armed and hostile Gazan Arabs into Israel. An IDF statement issued shortly afterwards, quoted by Times of Israel, said:
“A short while ago an IDF unit opened fire at three terrorists who tried to cross the security barrier from the southern Strip toward [Israeli] territory, and to damage security infrastructure in the area of the fence... Two of the terrorists were killed.”
There is confirmation from Hamas' Ministry of Health in Gaza - the highly problematic sole source of all reports about Palestinian Arab casualties in the course of the current Gaza Riots battles - that two Palestinians had been killed. At this stage, there does not seem to be any public information about the fate of the third thwarted infiltrator.
UPDATE 5:30 pm Sunday May 6, 2018: An updated Times of Israel report, quoting an updated IDF statement now says three Palestinian Arab infiltrators, part of a group of four, were killed in today's thwarted attack. There's no clear word yet on what happened to the fourth. It says: "The Israel Defense Forces said the men were found to be in possession of an ax, two bottles of lighter fluid, a lighter, a bolt cutter and a GoPro camera... From an initial investigation it appears the four-man cell arrived at the security fence in order to infiltrate into Israeli territory in an attempt to carry out a terror attack...” It appears the attack was an attempt "to damage the security infrastructure along the Gaza border or potentially attack IDF soldiers."
Yesterday (Saturday), there was a powerful explosion - whose cause is still the subject of back-and-forth contention - in the central Gaza Strip area:
Gaza's health ministry confirmed six people were killed on Saturday's explosion, with three others wounded in what residents said appeared to be an accidental explosion in the Zawayda area of the central Gaza Strip. The health ministry said the explosion may have been caused by the handling of explosives. In the past some explosions in the Gaza Strip have resulted from the accidental detonation of explosive materials belonging to militant groups. However a statement from the Palestinian Islamist group's armed wing insisted that the incident was a "deplorable Zionist crime". The Ezzedine Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Gaza's rulers, said the fatalities were members of their group and blamed Israel for the explosion but did not provide details or proof. The incident occurred during a "complex security and intelligence operation", the group said in a statement, calling it "serious and large security incident" and blaming the "Zionist enemy". The statement added that it was a "serious crime against our fighters". ["Six members of Hamas military wing killed in Gaza explosion", The National, May 6, 2018]
The video clip below, embedded in a Tweet [here]. captures some of the drama: 

---

A BBC report ["Gaza explosion leaves six Palestinians dead", BBC, May 5, 2018] said
The Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, military wing of the Hamas militant group, blamed Israel, but the Israeli military said it was not involved. A Palestinian source quoted by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that the victims appeared to be members of Hamas... It is not clear what caused the blast in Deir al-Balah... The explosion could have been caused by the handling of explosives inside a building, the source added... Following Saturday's explosion, TV images showed a pillar of smoke rising near the coast. "The IDF (Israel Defence Force) is not involved in this incident in any way," an Israeli military spokesman said. Correspondents say explosions in Gaza in the past have been caused by Israeli air strikes, by feuding between Palestinian factions or by the mishandling of explosives by militant groups.
Whatever the cause, the dead have been claimed with certainty by Hamas. All six are said - by the terrorist organization - to be from its Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the so-called armed wing of Hamas. 

But to judge from how their images are being marketed in Palestinian Arab society today, there's some difference of opinion whether to have them viewed as (in our words) peaceful, rights-seeking ordinary protesters, as Palestine Chronicle appeared to be presenting them in this image posted a few hours ago [here]

Image Source
The accompanying text gives their untimely demise this context: "Saturday’s blast follows
weeks of protests along the Israeli-Gaza border as part of the Great March of Return movement
."
Or instead - the very same six as fierce warriors, heroes of their people and, as the Palestinian Information Center website terms them, "martyrs" of the notorious al-Qassam Brigades terrorist section of Hamas. 

Image Source: Palestinian Information Center website
The PIC report has this to say in support of its version:
Hundreds of Palestinians marched on Sunday in Gaza provinces for the funerals of six martyrs of al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas movement. Al-Qassam Brigades said in a brief statement on Saturday evening that six of its fighters were killed during a "complex security operation" in al-Zawaideh town in the central Gaza Strip. Further details on the incident will be revealed later, the statement noted.
It gives the names of the dead terrorists as Mahmoud al-Ostaz, Wesam Abu Mahrouk, Taher Shahin, Mousa Salman, Mahmoud al-Tawashi, and Mahmoud al-Qishawi.

Times of Israel says Hamas, naturally enough, 
blamed Israel for the explosion, without providing details or proof. Palestinian media, by contrast, said it was a “work accident” — that is, that the terrorists were killed by their own explosives.
As we often do, we will go with the Palestinian Arab version - the one quoted in that last paragraph. Keep in mind that generally we don't get to see news reports in which Hamas owns up to its freshly deceased martyrs having been interrupted with extreme prejudice by the Israelis while they, the "resistance" fighters, were busy preparing themselves to do terrorism. Mostly we need to figure that out between the lines.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

01-May-18: Again, Shalit Deal 'graduates' are behind a major but thwarted Arab-on-Israeli terror attack

How close, warm and mutually supportive are relations between Turkey
and the terrorists of Hamas. Anyone's guess, really. [Source]
For those who adopt the somewhat conventional - but woefully inaccurate - view that the "moderate" Abbas/Fatah/PA regime controls the Palestinian Territories apart from Hamas-dominated Gaza, today's news might cause some confusion.

Three Palestinian Arabs from East Jerusalem were formally charged by prosecutors this morning (Tuesday) in the Jerusalem District Court with acting on behalf of the Hamas terrorist movement in plotting a shooting attack against Israelis.

The indictment reported in Times of Israel this afternoon names Naseem Hamada (who described himself to his interrogators as the group's leader), Izz al-Din Atun and Obeida Amira. Reports say all three are known to Israeli security before today for their ties to terrorist activities.

All three of today's arrestees are from the Sur Baher neighborhood of Jerusalem. They are charged with contact with a foreign agent, membership in a terrorist organization and conspiring to carry out a terror attack. (There's a fourth suspect, identified in the news report as A. A.; prosecutors have not yet reached a decision as to whether to file charges against him.)

The arrests came after Israel Police and Shin Bet became aware of the plan to open fire on IDF service personnel at a bus stop outside Oranit, an Israeli community close to Rosh Ha'ayin. A town of about 9,000 residents, it straddles the 1948 ceasefire line - the so-called Kav Hayarok or Green Line. It's located about 30 kilometers (say, 20 miles) from Israel's business center, Tel Aviv.

It emerged from the interrogation, as well, that 
Atun and Amira traveled to Turkey last year to visit Hamas figures Mahmoud Atun and Musa Azari [sic], who were exiled under the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange, and received thousands of dollars to help fund the attack.
The name "Musa Azari" might be a mistake. We suspect it should have been Musa al-Akari about whom we posted this
In a conversation with Ynet, the terrorist's 16-year-old son, Hamza, said he looked up to his father's acts. "I'm proud of my father. I'm not sad that he died a martyr." The police agreed for the family to bury al-Akari at midnight in the presence of up to 35 people... The terrorist's brother is Musa al-Akari, a prisoner released in the Shalit deal and deported to Turkey. He was a member of the Hamas cell that murdered border police officer Nissim Toledano in 1992. Al-Akari, 38, a father of five from the Shuafat refugee camp, arrived at the Light Rail station in the afternoon and ran over anyone who crossed his path. He was shot to death by a border police team that was on site after he exited the vehicle and attempted to attack passersby. Hamas has taken responsibility for the attack. [Ynet. November 5, 2014]
The Atun brothers of Sur Baher have a long and deep history of terrorist activity. 
  1. In addition to Izz al-Din Atun indicted today, there are 
  2. Munir Marwat Atun and his brother the well-named Jihad Atun who were both arrested for being members of another terrorist/shooter cell seven years ago ["Shin Bet Nabbed Five Members of Hamas-linked Terror Cell in Jerusalem", Haaretz, April 8, 2011]. 
  3. A fourth brother, Mahmoud Atun was serving a life sentence in 2011 for murdering three Israelis, including (as noted above) Border Police Sgt.-Maj. Nissim Toledano, 29, in December 1992. After being incomprehensibly freed by Israel in the catastrophic Shalit Deal of October 2011, he's now one of the Hamas king-pins who freely orchestrate murderous attacks on Israelis from their Turkish safe haven.
Click here for the February 12, 2018 Haaretz report
We have focused some attention on the lethal Turkey/Hamas axis over the past six years but it generally gets far too little reporting. Here's some background reading - a small selection from a long list:
There's some background about that violent Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher here: "1-Dec-13: Living with stone-age neighbors".