'J'lem cell suspected of killing cops'

Shin Bet: Seven Arab detainees also in advanced stages of planning other attacks in capital.

September 24, 2008 13:21
3 minute read.
'J'lem cell suspected of killing cops'

shuafat attack 224 88. (photo credit: Channel 2)


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Three Arab residents of east Jerusalem have been charged with the murders of two Border Police officers in separate shootings in the city this year, police announced Wednesday. Coming on the heels of Monday night's vehicle terror attack near Jerusalem's Old City, the announcement served to highlight the growing phenomenon of Jerusalem Arabs who are linked to terrorism. The three suspects, who were arrested last month, have confessed to the killings and reenacted them, Jerusalem Police chief Cmdr. Aharon Franco said at a police briefing. The three men are suspected of killing officer Rami Zuari on January 24 near the city's Shuafat refugee camp, and officer David Shriki on July 11, near the Lions Gate. Two other border policemen were wounded in the shooting attacks. A gag order which had been imposed on the case was lifted Wednesday afternoon. The chief suspect in the case, Muhammad Khalil Adnan Abu-Sneina, 21, of the Anata neighborhood, allegedly set up two terror cells of three to five members each, in both Jerusalem and Hebron, to carry out the attacks. A search of his home uncovered three handguns, knives and electric stun-guns. The suspect, who had no security record, owned a market stall near Herod's Gate in the Old City, which he used as a stakeout to plan the attacks. Abu-Sneina's father was arrested in 1981 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of soldier Avraham Deutsch in 1978 and Yosef Moscovitch in 1979, an Israeli security official said. He was released in 1985 as part of a prisoner exchange between Israel and the Palestinians. According to police, Abu-Sneina and his fellow cell members had first tried to steal a weapon from a soldier or civilian, but after failing to do so had pooled their money and bought a pistol in Hebron. In the first attack, Abu-Sneina enlisted Mahmad Julani, 21, of the city's Shuafat refugee camp, who remained in the car as a lookout, police said. Abu-Sneina passed through the checkpoint near the neighborhood, presenting his blue Israeli identity card to the officers on duty, only to return to the site shortly afterwards, where he shot Zuari at close range and seriously wounded a female officer, the indictment says. He then snatched the officer's rifle and fled the scene in the waiting vehicle. Six months later, Abu-Sneina went out with the third suspect, Louis Abu Nigma, 24, also from the Shuafat refugee camp, to carry out an attack near the Lions Gate, but left the scene due to the heavy police presence in the area, the charge sheet says. According to the indictment, the two men returned to the area the next day. After Abu Nigma verified that the area was "clean," Abu-Sneina allegedly fatally shot Shriki and seriously wounded another officer before his gun jammed. Shriki died less than two weeks later. The three suspects also allegedly planned to murder a Jerusalem police officer, who they trailed home from work, and to kidnap a security officer. They also planned to shoot at a police patrol vehicle next to Almog Junction north of the Dead Sea, carry out a shooting attack on a bus at northern Jerusalem's French Hill junction, and shoot at a border crossing in Hebron. The three suspects were charged in Jerusalem District Court on September 15 with murder, attempted murder and an array of other charges, including illegal possession of firearms and weapons trafficking. "This is an initial closing of a circle for us," said Zion Shriki of Rishon Lezion, David's father. "It proves that, whoever comes to kill us, we will catch up with them and get them," Shriki said. Since the beginning of the year, 250 Arab residents of east Jerusalem have been arrested by police for terror-related offenses, including firebombing and rock-throwing, a marked increase compared to last year, Franco said. Nevertheless, the city's police chief insisted that a third intifada was not in progress. One in three of Jerusalem's 750,000 residents is Arab. Unlike Palestinians living in the West Bank, Arab residents of the city enjoy freedom of movement throughout Israel. "I do not see any way to limit the movement of 270,000 Arab residents of the city," Franco said. He added that intelligence information was the main way for police to prevent such attacks, but noted that police had had no warnings ahead of any of the attacks in the city this year. News of the indictment came two days after a 19-year-old from east Jerusalem plowed his car into a crowd at an intersection near the Old City, wounding more than a dozen people, mainly soldiers, before being shot dead.

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