Israel believes Jewish Agency attack unplanned

Emissary's home firebombed; Israeli security officials: This is terrorism in full meaning of the term.

Bielski 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Bielski 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israeli security officials believe Saturday's Molotov cocktail attack on the home of Rhode Island Jewish Agency emissary Yossi Knafo was most likely spontaneously perpetrated by a local group, The Jerusalem Post has learned. No one was wounded in the attack, which took place just before 2 a.m. near the Brown University campus in Providence. One firebomb hit an outside wall of the house and sparked a fire in the yard, while a second firebomb passed through a window into the living room, but failed to explode. Knafo, who was awake in the adjacent bedroom at the time of the attack, immediately alerted local police and Jewish Agency security personnel. Agency security transferred him temporarily to a hotel. Police and the FBI opened an investigation into the attack. Though the attack was spontaneous, "this marks a serious escalation," a source familiar with the case told the Post. "This isn't a threatening letter, a stone through the window or an anonymous phone call." Security officials point to other spontaneous anti-Jewish attacks on American soil that had deadly results, such as the July 2006 shooting in the Seattle Jewish Federation and the 2002 shooting attack on an El Al ticket counter at the Los Angeles International Airport. "This is terrorism in the full meaning of the term," said the source. A neighbor reportedly told law enforcement officials she saw two unidentified individuals near the house at the time. The unexploded cocktail was being examined for fingerprints and other possible clues to the assailants' identity. The Jewish Agency's security apparatus in North America was on alert after the attack, and the Post has confirmed that agency personnel are in contact with the individual detectives handling the case in the FBI and local police. The context for the attack is as yet unclear. Knafo has said he knew of no reason anyone would target his home, while Amos Hermon, a member of the Jewish Agency Executive and chair of its Task Force on Anti-Semitism, echoed other agency officials in noting the attack may mark an unparalleled escalation of anti-Israel campus activism. "This is unprecedented," said Hermon. "A Jewish Agency emissary hasn't been attacked in America for decades, and we've never known a Molotov cocktail attack that came from anti-Israel or anti-Semitic groups." As a semi-official organization, the Jewish Agency is a "protected entity," whose security is under the purview of the Israel Security Agency (ISA) which coordinates security for Israeli representation overseas. Agency officials, including Hermon, cite tensions that may have risen over the weekend due to a massive Jewish Agency campaign on dozens of university campuses and in hundreds of synagogues and schools in the US and worldwide to commemorate the March 6 terror attack on Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav Yeshiva which killed eight students. The agency has also received warnings from Israeli security services over possible retaliation attacks in the wake of the assassination in Damascus of Hizbullah mastermind Imad Mughniyeh on February 12. At the time, Israeli officials welcomed Mughniyeh's death but did not claim responsibility for the operation. Following the Saturday attack, hundreds of Jewish Agency emissaries throughout the US and Canada were briefed on the event and its security implications.