Saturday, December 01, 2018

01-Dec-18: Suspected Eilat terror attack: Jordanian wielding hammer seriously injures two Israeli dock-workers

After crossing the border from Jordan into Israel, Jordanian workers wait
for their transport to pick them up, outside the Yitzhak Rabin Border Terminal
in Eilat, southern Israel, on March 15, 2018 [Image Source: David Vaknin]
There were reports Friday morning that two people had been injured in Israel's southern port city of Eilat after they were attacked by a Jordanian national. The details we have seen so far seem incomplete and raise additional questions.

From Israel National News, we understand that an attack happened at about 8:30 Friday morning on board a vessel docked in Eilat's port. It quotes the Magen David Adom ambulance service as a source for a police assessment that "the incident appeared to have been a brawl between the workers" and that "all possible motives were being examined". It says the attacker "has been identified as a Jordanian national who is employed as a dock worker in the port, while the victims are also believed to be dock workers." One of the victims, described as a 24-year-old male, is reported to be in moderate condition with contusions to his upper torso and hospitalized in Eilat's Yoseftal Medical Center. A second person is said to be in "light condition.” A JTA report says both were then transferred to Beer Sheba's Soroka Medical Center.

Arab News however says both victims were hospitalized with serious injuries and adds the detail that the Jordanian "beat them with a hammer". From Haaretz:
Tamir Gross, one of the two victims, said he had been among the workers conducting drilling from the deck of a ship. "Out of nowhere, I suddenly got three blows of a hammer on my head," he said. "I fell into the water and immediately the guy jumped in after me and began swimming toward me." Gross said he swam away and managed to ascend a ladder to a dock. "One of the Jordanian workers helped me," he said.
the Jordanian, who was employed as a repairman at the port, used a heavy-duty hammer weighing over 2 pounds to hit both Israelis in the head, fracturing their skulls.
From Times of Israel, we learn that Israel Police suspect the attack is a terrorist incident; that the attacker was, as of Friday, going to be interrogated by the Shin Bet; that a second Jordanian male was injured, lightly, trying to restrain the attacker. And this: the suspected attacker, who is not yet named, began working in Israel on Thursday after being issued a daily work permit from the Population and Immigration Authority.

About Jordanians and work permits: While Palestinian Arabs with Israeli work permits are generally barred from entering Eilat, Israel, in June 2014, started issuing permits for up to 1,500 Jordanian citizens to work in Eilat hotels. Jordan and Israel would be jointly monitoring the implementation of the plan, it was said at the time. [See "In a first, Israel lets Jordanian workers cross border for jobs", Washington Post, May 16, 2016: Quote - "So far, nothing bad has happened. “The Jordanians need work, and we need workers,” said the head of the Eilat Hotel Association, Shabtai Shay."] A Tourism Ministry press release said the Jordanians would be performing cleaning, dish-washing and room service jobs. Conditions included that they would return each night to Jordan at the end of the day. It appears the program was then extended to cover labor in the port.

None of the Jordanian media sites we regularly scan have reported any of this so far. We will check again on Sunday morning.

UPDATE Saturday December 22, 2018 at 5:45 pm:
  • The Jerusalem Post reports that a 28-year-old Jordanian citizen was indicted Friday on charges relating to an attack on two Israelis in Eilat last month (as we reported above) without giving his full name. The Southern District Attorney's Office in its indictment calls the incident "nationalist" which in this part of the world is synonymous with terror. The accused is charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit a terrorist act. 
  • Over at Israel National News, they give his name as Taher Halef and say he intended "to murder Israelis and Jews due to his identification with the Palestinian people, for Palestine and God, and as revenge for the occupation, with the intention of harming state security". As part of dock renovation work at the port of Eilat, divers were engaged to perform underwater work. The Jordanian was sent to bring equipment from a storage shed; he came back with a hammer and launched his assault on the divers. A day before, he was videotaped by his family reading them his last will along with inspirational quotes from the Koran (including "Do not think of someone who died for the sake of the dead, but lives and breathes with God") and asking his parents to protect his wife and children. 
  • Times of Israel says the suspected attacker, who had just gotten a daily work permit from Israel's Population and Immigration Authority, had commenced work in Israel only a few days before the attack. It appears he had been plotting an assault on Israelis for years. Disturbingly, the indictment says he passed the Israeli screening process even though the Jordanian manpower agency that originally interviewed him flagged him as a potential terrorist. 

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