|The remnants of the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium, eleven years after |
the June 2001 massacre [Image Source]
We said then, and before and after, that we ordinary Israelis will find ourselves eventually having to pay an unbearably heavy price for the foolishness of the decision to open the doors of Israel's prisons and to release a vast horde of unrepentant killers and would-be killers of Jewish children.
But, as we said, our words fell on far too many deaf ears, particularly in the circle of decision makers here in the nation's capital.
Now please think back to June 1, 2001.
A warm Friday night in Tel Aviv. A disco on the premises of a beachfront structure known as the Dolphinarium. A young Palestinian Arab terrorist, carrying a bomb and on a mission inspired by a religious leadership, merges with the crowd of mainly Russian-speaking youngsters, most of them recent immigrants to Israel. On orders from his Hamas masters, he explodes: 21 of the young people are killed, 132 injured. Families and futures shattered. Lives irreparably demolished.
One of those Hamas masters is a man called Husam Atif Ali Badran (sometimes written Hussan Badran), one of the senior Hamas operators overseeing the Sbarro massacre. Nine years ago, in 2004, Badran was interviewed by two prominent journalists from the Israeli daily Haaretz, Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel who were preparing a book about the second "intifada". In their words, he "spoke relatively candidly about Hamas policy and his involvement in operational decision" though he did hold back from discussing his personal role in specific acts of murder and terrorism.
In an article published in Haaretz in October 2011, Issacharoff and Harel recalled what Badran had told them seven years earlier. Some excerpts (all of them quoted verbatim) from that 2011 article:
- Hussan Badran is the most senior Hamas prisoner from the West Bank who is scheduled to be released tomorrow in the prisoner swap for Gilad Shalit. Badran may be getting out of prison, but he will not be going home, as Israel insisted that he be deported.
- Now 45, Badran, is from the Askar refugee camp in Nablus. He was identified by the Shin Bet security service at the beginning of the second intifada, which began in September 2000, as the head of the military wing of Hamas in West Bank.
- Although intelligence information pointed to his involvement in suicide bombings, including the terrorist attack at the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium in 2001, in which 21 people were killed, he was never convicted of murdering Israelis, as most of his counterparts were. During four months of harsh Shin Bet interrogation, he provided only limited information and was ultimately only convicted of less serious offenses such as membership in an illegal organization. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
- Badran called the second intifada a "gift from God," from Hamas' standpoint, saying that the organization had reached a low point between 1997 and 2000. The entire leadership of the organization was either in Palestinian Authority prisons or Israeli ones, he said, and the military wing of Hamas had essentially disappeared. "But within two weeks of the outbreak of the intifada, after our prisoners were released from Palestinian Authority prisons, we had brought our power back on the street," he said.
- Hamas, he said, returned to committing terrorist attacks two weeks after the start of the second intifada in reaction to pressure from the Palestinian street. "Fatah was only carrying out shooting attacks. People wanted to see revenge for our dead, operations inside the territory of Israel," he said, explaining that Hamas leadership decided that terrorist attacks should be carried out wherever possible.
- He said some of the Hamas terror attacks, including the attack at the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem in 2001, were carried out in revenge for the assassination of senior Hamas officials in the West Bank.
- "I believe I will get out of jail," he told us in 2004, "if not as a result of a peace agreement, I will get out in a prisoner swap.
Fresh lilies are regularly laid at a monument by the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium bearing witness to an evening in 2001 when 21 Israeli teenagers were killed while queuing outside a nightclub. Another 132 were injured in the attack by Saeed Hotari, a young Palestinian suicide bomber affiliated with Hamas. But last week flowers arrived more in protest than in sorrow. Husam Badran, the former head of Hamas's military wing in the West Bank and instigator of the Dolphinarium attack, is expected to be among 477 Palestinian prisoners released on Tuesday in a deal to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. A further 550 will be freed within two months. "It's surreal. It's beyond belief," said one young mother angrily as she looked at the monument. "I may be the only one against it, but no good deal sees the release of 1,000 killers. People say Netanyahu showed courage in agreeing to set them free, but I say he has given in to terrorism."
|Poster at entrance to Filisteen elementary (!) school, Qalqilya, |
in January 2003 depicts ‘Abd al-Rahman Hammad (center),
who planned 2001 massacre at Dolphinarium Tel Aviv
and Sa’id Hassan Hutri (left) who carried it out [Image Source]
On Thursday, the IDF announced that, together with agents from the Shabak, it had penetrated a terror cell in Hebron and
uncovered and disrupted a terror infrastructure belonging to the military wing of Hamas, which had acted to establish a regional headquarters so as to carry out attacks in the area of Hebron... 20 terrorists – known Hamas members who had previously served prison sentences in Israel for terror activity – were arrested. The investigation carried out by the security forces revealed that the arrested operatives had intended to carry out terror attacks, particularly kidnappings. The terrorists had already begun preparations to carry out a kidnapping, trying to find an apartment to use as a hide-out and an Israeli citizen to serve as a driver for the intended attack. Over the course of the investigation, much combat equipment belonging to the members of the terror infrastructure was discovered... Members of the terror infrastructure maintained contact with Hamas officials abroad so as to receive assistance, directions and funding. The primary contact person abroad was Husam Badran, one of the prisoners released in the prisoner exchange that secured the release of a kidnapped IDF soldier, Gilad Shalit... Upon his release in October 2011, he was exiled to Qatar. The terrorists were indicted... [source]There has been only minor coverage of the arrests here and virtually none abroad. As to the central role of the Qatar-based Badran to the machinations of the terrorist gang, even less.
It's a source of enormous gratitude that Israel's security apparatus continues daily to pursue and frustrate jihadists in the service of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah and the others. It's a dangerous, thankless task, carried out with very little fanfare. But as everyone following these things knows, it's a statistical certainty that one of these days (Heaven forbid) they will arrive on the scene too late to stop one particular jihadist who will carry out his mission and be acclaimed as a martyr throughout the length and breadth of Palestinian Arab society and other parts of the pro-terrorism world. That's all it takes - just one of these ruthless, murderous thugs. The numbers are against us - the targets and victims.
Our side knowingly put 1,027 of these people back out on the streets. And somehow the reports of them being re-arrested or stopped in the course of doing more of their terrorism are being soft-pedaled in the news media or go unreported. The result is that there are highly-motivated murderers and terrorists with years of experience and deep resources who are now in place, scheming and planning the unthinkable, far from the gaze and awareness of most of us.
If, as the saying goes, ignorance is bliss, many are probably pleased with how the various outcomes of the Shalit transaction are evolving.