General view of Eilat resorts.
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/HENRIK SENDELBACH)
Two Arabs from east Jerusalem hatched a plot to bomb an Eilat hotel and were thwarted by hotel employees who notified authorities, it was cleared for publication on Thursday.
The case went public after Southern District prosecutors indicted Halil Nimri, 21, and Ashraf Salaimeh, 23, on charges of conspiracy to assist the enemy in wartime, for their ill-fated plot to bomb the Be Center in Eilat.
According to the indictment, two months ago the suspects – who were living in Eilat and working in a local hotel – decided to build a bomb and detonate it inside a hotel, ideally while a group of religious Jews were staying there.
The indictment stated that Ashraf wanted to carry out an attack in order to avenge the death of 19-year-old Fadi Alon of the capital’s Isawiya neighborhood, a childhood friend who was gunned down by security personnel in Jerusalem on October 4 as he allegedly tried to carry out a stabbing attack in the city.
The indictment said Halil wanted the two to commit a stabbing attack against a religious Jew in Eilat but Ashraf convinced him that they would both get caught and that it was better to set a bomb and detonate it from a distance.
The two then began carrying out surveillance on the hotel and a group of religious people staying there, and watched bomb-making videos on the Internet.
On November 30, Ashraf went to the hotel to gather more intelligence for the attack, and began asking a receptionist and a manager a series of questions. He allegedly said he was looking to book a room at a future date and asked to see a number of rooms in the hotel, including one underneath the dining hall.
In addition, he asked the hotel employees a number of questions they found suspicious, including how many people stay at the hotel on average, the hotel’s occupancy, and whether or not a large group of religious Jews was expected to be staying there anytime soon.
As soon as he left, the two employees contacted the hotel’s management, who notified police, and soon after the two suspects were arrested.
The two men were investigated by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the special investigative branch of the Southern District Police.
The indictment does not include any indication that the pair actually succeeded in making an explosive device or were supported by an organized terrorist group.
The southern city, a tourist resort that has for years been rather detached from the violence and conflict that plagues other areas of Israel, has remained largely untouched by the lone-wolf attacks of the “stabbing intifada.”
In October, an Israeli Arab from the Wadi Ara city of Umm el-Fahm stabbed and lightly wounded a woman in Eilat after “he had been influenced by videos of stabbing attacks that have been published recently,” according to the Shin Bet.