Monday, February 24, 2014

24-Feb-14: Revealed this afternoon: Terrorism charges brought against rock-hurling, firebomb-throwing gang on Jerusalem's northern fringe

Route 442 scene [Image Source: Kobi Gideon/Flash 90]
If you're familiar with our nation's capital city, you'll be aware that there are two main intercity roads that connect Jerusalem with the coastal plain and the Tel Aviv region. One is Highway One, now under major reconstruction and expansion, and by far the busier of the two alternatives. And the other: Route 443 that winds its way out of Jerusalem through the Judaean Hills, past Machane Ofer prison, the new urban zone constituted by burgeoning communities of Modi'in and Hashmonaim/Kiryat Sefer, and meeting Route One just south of the international airport.

For 25 years, Route 443 has been the road we traveled more than any other leaving from and returning to home, but not entirely without incident. About ten years ago, our car was hit by a well-aimed rock hurled by a Palestinian Arab man perched on one of the hills near one of the two Bet Ur villages (Bet Ur El Fuqa, Bet Ur El Tahta), with minimal damage to the body thanks to some last-second evasive action. Mostly, thank Heavens, it's been clear sailing.

Lately though, the state of safety on this important artery has noticeably deteriorated. A report less than a week ago ["The road to Jerusalem that’s off limits to Israel’s leaders", Times of Israel, February 19, 2014] included some candid comments from an IDF officer charged with securing the area, and pointing out how easily lives can be endangered:
Stones and firebombs, while potentially lethal, are easy to hide and require no planning or accomplices. Pointing across the four-lane highway at the village of Bayt Ur a-Tahta, home to 3,000 people and stretching across nearly four kilometers of road, the intelligence officer said that from that village, a central point of friction, all someone has to do is walk down to the edge of the road with a bottle of fuel in one coat pocket and a lighter in the other. “He can keep them in the pockets of his coat and light it up one second before he reaches the road, then throw it, and escape,” he said. [Times of Israel]
This afternoon, about an hour ago, the authorities disclosed that some 15 residents of Beit Ur El Tahta have been arrested and charged with carrying out a program of attacks via Molotov cocktail and rocks at vehicles traveling on Route 443. Personal injury and property damage to drivers and passengers are referred to in the charge-sheet. The announcement says several of those arrested have already served prison terms for similar offences in the past. It adds that three other men from the same village were convicted earlier this month of attacks on the same road that included the use of improvised guns as well as rocks. The Shin Bet, the IDF and the Israel Police were all involved in the arrests.

The threat posed by determined, ideologically committed hurlers of rocks and shooters of bullets against ordinary folk traveling the roads in their cars and buses is consistently diminished - to their great shame - by Israel's enemies in the media and in political life. We can't think of a better or more disgraceful example than Jody Rudoren's article in the New York Times last August: "Rocks in Hand, a Boy Fights for His West Bank Village". We posted our thoughts about that here: "5-Aug-13: Boys and their hobbies: the New York Times uncovers another little village".

There's no reason to treat the perpetrators as having intentions any less than premeditated homicide. Michael Palmer, a quietly-determined, high principled man whose son and grandchild were murdered by just that kind of terrorist act, pursued the men who did it and ensured a court verdict of murder was the outcome. Let's hope the inspiration of the Palmer proceedings continues to guide the prosecutors and the courts.

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