Jerusalem on high alert for next terror strike
Israeli security and police authorities fear that the drive-by shooting attack in Jerusalem Sun. Oct. 9 was planned as the opening shot of a round of major Palestinian terror assaults, most likely in Jerusalem, over the Jewish High Holidays. debkafile’s counterterrorism sources report information received of more than one group of terrorists heading for an attack, in the wake of the Silwan gunman, who murdered Yosef Kirma and Levana Malichi Sunday. They are fired up to avenge his death in a shootout with Israeli police, which cut short his shooting spree.
Police, Border Guards and elite police units are fanned out wide to forestall any attacks, over and above the regular reinforcement of manpower, including volunteers, for Yom Kippur, especially at the Western Wall which sees a mass intake of worshippers for the annual Day of Repentance.
Community leaders at the Palestinian Al-Ram village in north Jerusalem were warned to put a stop to the celebrations that hailed the gunman as a hero and martyr or face a curfew. The villagers would then be prevented from going out to their jobs in the city. While the investigation into the shooting is under a gag order, it is already evident that the perpetrator did not act alone. His accomplices are now targeted.
The detention a month ago of a Palestinian terrorist in the Shuafat district of Jerusalem thwarted a row of terror attacks planned by him on behalf of Hamas for the Jewish High Holidays in Jerusalem. He was charged with forming a Hamas cell and plotting attacks, including laying explosive devices in shops, an attack on crowds at the Malcha Mall, and preparing a suicide attack in a Pisgat Zeev bus.
Read earlier DEBKA reports.
Details of the inquiry into the deadly Palestinian shooting spree that claimed two Israeli lives and injured 6 others in Jerusalem Sunday, Oct. 9, are under a court gag order. However, this attack was clearly different from the run-of-the-mill terror plaguing Israel for the last two years, which its security services have usually prevented in good time or cut short before the damage spread.
The two victims were Police Elite Unit (Yasam) officer Yosef Kirma, 29, who was survived by his wife, parents and two brothers, and Levana Malichi, 60, who was mourned by a husband, three daughters and 6 grandchildren.
The gunman was not an anonymous knife-wielding lone youth, but well known to the police and security authorities as Musabah Abu Sabit, 39, from Silwan, who fitted the classical profile of a hardened terrorist.
Abu Sabit had been in and out of Israeli courts and prisons, charged with grievous bodily harm to police officers, taking illegal military training, torching vehicles and other violent acts.
He was due to start serving another four-month jail sentence on the day of his shooting rampage in Jerusalem. This terrorist was also prominent in extremist Palestinian circles as “the Lion of Jerusalem.” He was photographed marching with the flag of the Hamas terrorist group and caught as a activist for the outlawed violent anti-Israel Islamist Murabatun movement.
Abu Sabit did not operate underground. His hate-filled inflammatory messages with self-images appeared in Facebook, the latest one two days ago.
Homeland Security Minister Gilead Erdan’s stated to the media after the attack that no specific warning had preceded the attack and charged Facebook with responsibility for reopening its pages to Palestinian incitement.
Neither claim accounted for the security authorities having missed the vital clue to the coming attack.
That miscue will no doubt be uncovered by the inquiry. But the questions remain.
Abu Sabit moved between three sites of attack, shooting an MI6-type automatic rifle, a feat demanding the aptitude of a commando or special operations fighter. Where was he trained? Did he pause between attacks, or did he have an accomplice at the wheel? If he did, what happened to him? Is he the object of a manhunt? The weapon was worth roughly $10,000. How did he obtain it and the ammo he used?
A terorist operation of this kind would be hard to conduct by a lone killer. It would be typically aided and abetted by a group, each member of which would have a special function. So was this the work of a network which the Shin Bet Security Service missed?
After he was banned from Jerusalem, the gunman was able to return. How come? Were there no tabs on his movements?
The bravery, speed and enterprise demonstrated by the special police and border police officers in reaching and tackling the gunman minutes into his attack were exceptional. They offer a classical model for any anti-terror force anywhere. But Yosef Kirma paid the price.
debkafile reported earlier Sunday.
Two of the eight injured victims of a Palestinian gunman's attack Sunday, Oct. 9 in Jerusalem have died of their injuries. He conducted a shooting rampage from a moving car through three sites in northern Jerusalem: the light rail station opposite French Hill, the Shimon Hatzadik Tomb and a main Jerusalem thoroughfare, ending in a shootout at the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrach. There, he was surrounded by police and an elite counter-terror force. In the ensuing shootout, he was killed, after injuring two police officers, one of whom has since died. The gunman was a 39-year old resident of Silwan, a district opposite the Old City of Jerusalem.
This was the most serious attack in the latest upsurge of Palestinian terror starting ahead of the Jewish High Festivals. He was able to drive between three sites near National Police Headquarters, shooting all the way, without being stopped. In the final shootout, residents at Sheikh Jerrach were heard shouting Allahu Akhbar! from their windows.
Israeli Police Commissioner Ronnie Alsheich described the attack as serious with multiple victims – but not a surprise. Palestinian terrorists are wont to strike when Jewish festivals are at hand. The attack Sunday came three days before Yom Kippur Eve. He called on the public to carry on with their normal lives while remaining vigilant and informing the police of anything out of the way.
Nothing has changed, he said, but security forces operate day and night to prevent the ever-present terror menace. There is no reason to cancel visits to Jerusalem. Commissioner Alsheich praised the way the police handled the terrorist shooting rampage at three sites, noting that from beginning to end, the incident took no longer than 3-4 minutes.
At the same time, debkafile’s counterterrorism sources note that two weeks ago, the same gunman, suspected of plotting a terrorist attack, was issued with an order distancing him from Jerusalem.
Although the police commissioner said no advance warning of a terror attack had been received, debkafile’s counterterrorism sources report that the same gunman, known to the police as Mussabah Abu Sabit, 39, from Silwan, a Hamas follower and activist in the anti-Israel Muslim Al Aqsa campaign, was given an order two weeks ago banning his presence in Jerusalem.
This raises three questions:
1. How was he able to reach Jerusalem for his murderous shooting spree?
2. Did the police fail to execute the ban?
3. After being expelled from Jerusalem, wouldn’t he have presented the same terror threat from his next destination in another part the country?
4. Were any devices employed to keep track of the potential terrorist’s whereabouts?