Saturday 11 October 2003

Two Arabs -- one a bomber, the other a victim

Apprentice lawyer killed guard, self 18 others in Haifa

San Francisco Chronicle
Saturday, October 11, 2003

Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service

Haifa, Israel -- Among the 20 people who died last Saturday in the suicide bomb attack on a restaurant in Haifa were two Arabs, a man and a woman.
They had little in common.
Mutanis Karkaby, 32, was a poorly paid security guard at the Maxim restaurant, a popular meeting place on the beach jointly owned and patronized by Jews and Arabs, not a remarkable thing in the Israeli city where peaceful coexistence is most deeply entrenched.
Hanadi Jaradat, a 29-year-old from a well-to-do family in Jenin, was only days away from finishing her training with a local law firm.
Hanadi killed Mutanis and 18 other people when she walked into Maxim at lunchtime and blew it to pieces by detonating a harness under her clothes packed with explosives, jagged metal and bolts. Several entire families were destroyed -- grandparents, parents and young children ripped to shreds where they sat.
Hanadi was not a refugee. She didn't suffer from hunger or deprivation, and her landowning family could afford to send her to Jordan to study law. The Jaradats live in a smart-looking, detached house in Jenin noted for the large lemon tree in the front garden. They are not religious.
But Hanadi's generation, nonetheless, turned into a cell of killers. Swept up in the feelings of oppression and powerlessness shared by so many Palestinians, they steeped themselves in the blood-chilling ideology of Islamic Jihad, which calls for the destruction of Israel and the death of its Jewish residents.
Hanadi was not the first in the family to lash out through the medium of a suicide bombing. A relative, Rageb Jaradat, killed eight people and injured 22 when he blew himself up on a bus between Jenin and Haifa in April 2002.
Hanadi's brother Fadi and her cousin Saleh were Islamic Jihad terrorists. Saleh was a local commander of the group who helped plan a suicide bomb attack by another young woman in Afula in May and made several unsuccessful attempts to detonate large car bombs inside Israel. Fadi was one of his assistants.
Both were gunned down in June outside the family house by an undercover Israeli hit squad as Hanadi watched in horror and begged the soldiers to spare them.
Saleh had been on the run and had not seen his wife and 12-year-old son for some time. That evening, the fugitives came into Jenin for a quick meeting.
"Saleh came to see his wife and son, and to ask about my father's health," Hanadi told the Hamas Web site after the killings. "We were sitting at the entrance to the house drinking coffee. It was dark. A car with Arab plates pulled up, and we thought it was one of Saleh's friends.
"Suddenly, the white car stopped. Two guys jumped out and immediately opened fire on Saleh. Another car quickly appeared, also with Arab plates. Saleh's wife picked up her son and rushed inside. My brother Fadi fell to the ground . . . bleeding.
"I held his hand, and I started dragging him behind the couch we were sitting on to get away from the bullets. I started shouting, 'Fadi! Saleh!'
"I heard Fadi say in a very weak voice, 'Help me, save me.' Then the armed men attacked me, knocked me on the ground, dragged Fadi away and told me, 'Go into your house, or we'll kill you.'
"I shouted back, 'Leave me alone, I want to save my brother, he is bleeding. '
"Saleh was lying motionless . . . but Fadi was still moving. But three of the soldiers, who spoke Arabic fluently, attacked me and asked me, 'Where are his weapons?' I said, 'I don't know. There are no weapons. Allahu Akbar, he's going to die.'
"Then they forced me to lie face down, and one of them said, 'You bitch, you terrorist, we'll kill you with them.' They put their rifle to my head. I shouted back, 'You are terrorists, dogs.'
"Then I saw them dragging both of them away. They dragged them a few meters and shot them again in cold blood."
Hanadi swore to take revenge.
"The murderer will pay the price, and we will not cry alone," she told her Hamas interviewers. "To hell with all the world if our people cannot live in freedom and dignity and achieve the dream and goals of the martyrs."
Her father, Taisir Jaradat, said this week that he has no regrets. "I'm proud of my daughter," he said. "She did the right thing."
Her younger sister, Hydaya, described Hanadi as a "a very sociable and lovable person. . . . She became religious after my brother was martyred. She was very bitter.
"We are proud of her because she took revenge for my brother. Now we know that his blood was not spilled in vain."
While the talk in Jenin was of death and revenge, in Haifa it was of peace and reconciliation.
At the modest apartment of Mutanis' parents, relatives and friends tried to console the shattered family and vowed that Hanadi's act of retribution would not put an end to Jewish-Arab brotherhood here.
Mutanis was a Christian, one of thousands of Arabs who live side by side with Jews in the working-class Wadi Nisnas neighborhood. This week his parents' residence was packed with Jewish, Christian and Muslim neighbors paying their respects. Men sat in one of the rooms around his father, Jurias, while the women sat in the other with his mother, Layla, and young wife, Samar.
They were married two years ago.
Jurias has lived in Haifa all his life. His great-great grandfather came here from a nearby village. He is a plumber and also lays tiles, but there has been little work since the Israeli economy took a nosedive with the start of the intifada three years ago.
He said he wasn't surprised to see the mixed crowd flocking to his house and the funeral.
"We go to their houses of mourning as well," said Jurias. "Jews and Muslims came to the church, we all sat together. And later, they carried Mutanis' coffin on their shoulders together."
Asked the secret of Haifa's religious and ethnic harmony, he replied, "Arabs and Jews coexist together here because nobody tells anybody else what to do."
"The Palestinians and Israelis need a smart man who can see and hear," he said, miming the actions. "Then it will be finished in a day. Moses took a stick and parted the Red Sea. It was a miracle. There are many good people. Go and find them."
A photo of Mutanis, a dark-haired, good-looking young man, stared out from the sideboard.
"We were five brothers and sisters, and Mutanis was the youngest," said his brother Afif. "When you eat grapes, the last grape is the sweetest. So it was with Mutanis."
He said Mutanis had a gift for making people laugh.
"He smiled with his eyes, and he made people happy. He had worked in a few jobs, for the national lottery company, as a picture framer and a waiter."
Then he moved on to one of Israel's more hazardous occupations -- restaurant security guard.
Afif looked again at the picture.
"Life in Israel is difficult, but he wanted to build something. And he believed in God."

Tuesday 7 October 2003

Islamic Jihad denies Syria camp

But former terrorist says he received training there

San Francisco Chronicle
Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Serrvice

Jerusalem -- Syria claims that Ein Zaheb, the area near Damascus bombed by Israeli warplanes Sunday, is a Palestinian refugee camp in a peaceful rural area. But a former fighter in a Palestinian terrorist group told The Chronicle the bombed site was a key training facility and arsenal for Palestinian extremists based in Syria as recently as two years ago.
Israeli intelligence sources say they attacked the facility because it is "supported by Iran and is used for operational training for Palestinian terrorists."
Responding to the Israeli charges, Abu Emad el-Refaei, an Islamic Jihad spokesman in Beirut, denied that his organization had any bases in Syria.
"We do not have any training camps or bases in Syria or any other country," he told al Jazeera television Monday. "All our bases are inside the Palestinian occupied territories."
But Jamal Ali, who was an active member of a Syrian-based Palestinian extremist group until he renounced violence and left Syria nearly two years ago, said in an exclusive interview that he had received training at the camp three years ago. He said the site was uninhabited but was used for secretive one-day training sessions.
Now living under an assumed identity in Jordan, Ali said he had trained at Ein Zaheb and other facilities in Syria. He added that the Ein Zaheb base had still been in operation, and even expanding, in the summer of 2001, just before he left the country.
Ali said trainees were taken, one at a time, to nearby caves and given their weapons, accompanied by a training officer and four security guards.
"Inside the cave, we were handed the weapons and two or three grenades," he said. "We then went to a building outside known as the 'grease place,' where they kept the bullets and ammunition. Then we would spend hours stripping and rebuilding the guns until we could do it blindfolded.
"After that, we were driven up to the plateau for target practice with cardboard targets erected in the hills. Finally, we would practice throwing the grenades over the hillsides and diving for cover behind the rocks."
Footage first broadcast on Iranian television and replayed Sunday by Israel TV showed trainees at Ein Zaheb handling detonators and explosives, as well as large numbers of weapons, rockets and grenades stored in tunnels and caves.
Ali said the base was operated by the radical Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), the Palestinian splinter group led by Ahmed Jibril, but was used by most of the 10 extremist Palestinian organizations with headquarters in Damascus, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
A senior commander for the PFLP-GC told the Associated Press in Damascus on Monday that the camp was one of their deserted bases, not an Islamic Jihad camp, and had not been used in seven years. He said a civilian guard had been injured in the attack.
Ali described the camp as a sprawling underground network in "a very mountainous area riddled with caves."
"Inside the network of tunnels is one of the main weapons stores for Jibril's and the other groups," he said. "About three or four kilometers away, up on a plateau in the mountains, is a firing range used for training with guns, hand grenades and explosives."
Ein Zaheb was originally a training base used by Yasser Arafat's Fatah group, he said, until Syria turned against Arafat in 1983 and handed it over to Jibril.
"Ein Zaheb was the place where Abu Nidal, another Syrian-backed terrorist, executed 11 high-ranking officers from Fatah just after the Lebanon War in 1982," Ali said.
"It's a very rugged, very beautiful place in the mountains on the road from Damascus to Beirut," said Ali. "The terrain is so rough they train special squads in rock climbing and rappelling, but it's also full of natural springs and pools." The area is called Rabweh, he said, which means heaven.
On Monday, workers cleared rubble from what appeared to be a one-story house destroyed in the air raid. Pieces of metal and concrete shattered by the rocket attack lay on a nearby hill.
Israeli officials claim the camp is still feeding a pipeline that supplies terrorists to attack the country.
"There is a wide variety of training in the camp, including sabotage, artillery training, guerrilla warfare and even aeronautical training," said an Israeli security official. "Some of the terrorists training at the camp are operatives who come to receive advanced training and then return to Palestinian Authority territory in order to establish an operational terrorist infrastructure."
Amos Gilead, adviser on diplomatic and security affairs in the Israeli Defense Ministry, said the choice of Ein Zaheb as a target followed more than a month of tough messages warning Syrian leader Bashar Assad to stop assisting Palestinian extremists.