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Urgent Questions About Terror In Jerusalem & High-Rise Inferno In London

Border Police officer Hadas Malka was killed on June 16, 2017, in a stabbing attack near Damascus Gate. (Courtesy)

Friday evening 7:30 in Jerusalem: Most Israeli families were just finishing the traditional Sabbath Eve meal. A typical peaceful quiet had descended over the city. Suddenly on Saladin Street, the main thoroughfare in East Jerusalem, gunfire shattered the calm. Near Zedekiah's Cave, two Palestinians armed with knives and a modified Karl Gustav submachine gun attacked Israeli Border police who were patrolling in the area. The terrorists' submachine gun jammed quickly and the police officers shot dead the two attackers. Meanwhile, up the street near the Damascus Gate, a third terrorist surprised another team of Israeli Border Guards and stabbed twenty-three-year-old Sergeant Hadas Malka in the back. Although critically wounded, she tries to fight off her attacker before comrades shoot dead the terrorist.

Hadas was rushed by ambulance to Hadassah Hospital on nearby Mount Scopus. Doctors worked to try and save her life, but to no avail - she was fatally wounded in the neck and throat. Five hours later she was pronounced dead. A second Israeli Border Policeman was lightly wounded by ricochet fragments, as were two Palestinian bystanders who were not linked to the attack. 

It is always very sad when an Israeli serviceman is killed in action - it is even worse when it's a young woman. The media swiftly filled in the details of a lovely young woman who lived in the village of Azer near the town of Ashdod on the Mediterranean coast. Hadas had already completed her compulsory service in the Israeli Navy. The day after she was discharged she signed up with the Border Police where she quickly became a commander. Her family was in the midst of planning the wedding of her older brother. She is survived by her parents, two brothers, and three sisters. Thirty minutes before Hadas was attacked she sent a photo of herself, and as usual, smiling and full of life. When her family heard there had been a terror attack in Jerusalem, her mother said: 'Don't worry, Hadas has just sent a photo so she must be alright!' The funeral of Hadas was held at midnight Saturday night after the end of the Sabbath. Thousands of people attended.

It is estimated that over the years the PA has paid out 1.4 billion dollars to the families of terrorists.

Although both Daesh and Hamas were quick to claim credit for the attack, Israel's Shabak Security Service believes the terrorists acted on their own. Aged 18 and 19, they were residents of Deir Abu Meshal village close to the West Bank town of Ramallah, which is very near Jerusalem. Israeli security personnel moved quickly into the village to investigate their background and to check if they may have had accomplices. The residents have been barred from leaving the village and the family homes of the terrorists are expected to be demolished in the near future. The prized permits allowing its residents to work in Israel have also been revoked. Prime Minister Netanyahu demanded that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the killing in no uncertain terms. However, Abbas's Fatah party did just the opposite -it accused Israel of executing the terrorists! Although the Trump Administration has called on the Palestinian Authority to stop paying pensions to the families of terrorists, who are either killed or imprisoned, the PA has refused to do so. It is estimated that over the years the PA has paid out 1.4 billion dollars to the families of terrorists. The more Israelis they kill, the bigger the reward. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared the latest attack supplied further evidence there was no Palestinian peace partner. (At the same time Lieberman believes Israel has never been closer to a breakthrough peace accord with the Sunni Arab states that now realize Iran, not Israel, is their enemy.)

Israeli Border Police in Jerusalem (photo by Sgt. Jim Greenhill)

In any case, the killing of the female police officer raises some pressing questions. More and more Israeli women have volunteered for combat duty in the IDF and Border Police. Even some are highly religious women, as opposed to the ultra-orthodox men who refuse categorically to do any military service at all. They get away with it because Netanyahu caves in to receive the needed support of the ultra-orthodox parties in order to maintain his coalition government. Consider this: just over a year ago policewoman Hadar Cohen, who was actually a friend of Hadas Malka, was shot dead by a terrorist in a similar incident while on duty near the Damascus Gate.

Now Israeli women have proved that some of them can pull their weight and are capable of serving as combat soldiers. For example, there are several women fighter pilots in the Israeli Air Force, which has exceptionally high standards. However, this does not apply to every role. Only a minority of young Israeli men are suitable for commando units such as the Shiyetet - comparable to the US Navy Seals, or the Sayeret Matkal - comparable to Britain's SAS unit. So should female Israeli police officers be on patrol in such a hot spot as the Old City of Jerusalem in general, and near the Damascus Gate in particular? The terrorists know that any attack there will automatically get world attention - as one senior commander put it, 'a site filled with terror attacks and blood'. Moreover, the ultimate goal of a suicide terrorist is to make sure he first kills an Israeli. Will he have a better chance attacking a male or female police officer or soldier? Let's face it, all things being equal, the terrorist will probably have 'better' odds if he targets a woman.

Moreover, this is the holy Muslim month of Ramadan when religious fervor is at its peak. Last Friday, the holiest Muslim day, an estimated 180,000 Muslims from the West Bank flocked to the Al Aqsa mosque on Temple Mount to listen and possibly be incited by anti-Israeli sermons. If only a minute 1% of this multitude were capable of a terrorist attack, that's already a potential of 1,800 terrorists. Therefore, the terror factor was significantly higher last Friday than it normally was.

Bibi has ordered an inquiry into whether the Damascus Gate should be made a 'sterile' area, that is secret service jargon for measures and restrictions that make a terror attack well nigh impossible.

Question: should these factors have induced the powers that be to take special measures such as sending only male personnel to police the old City of Jerusalem? On the other hand, Sargent Hadas Malka was a commander and keeping her back at base would have undermined her position. In any case, Bibi has ordered an inquiry into whether the Damascus Gate should be made a 'sterile' area, that is secret service jargon for measures and restrictions that make a terror attack well nigh impossible. (The term gained prominence on November 4th, 1995, when bodyguards failed abysmally in preventing an assassin from approaching Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin from behind and shooting him in the back).

On the other hand, the senior Border Police officer said women are 'fully integrated' in the Border police and undergo the same training as the men. There are also held to the same standards and have proven they can do the job. So much so that nearly 25% of Border Police personnel are women. After the latest deadly attack, the Border Police is conducting a detailed examination of what happened and whether it is possible to shorten the brief split second of time to react in order to prevent similar tragedies in the future. Clearly, it is a matter of life and death when facing suicide killers.

And this relevant comment: Some years ago, a Jewish delegation from abroad was given a tour of an armored corps base. They were seated in a grandstand with a big tank training area in front of them. Suddenly a unit of tanks sped on to the battlefield and started firing and knocking out one target after another with pinpoint accuracy. The tanks then rolled up to the grandstand to the applauding audience. The tank turrets opened and the crews jumped down and stood at attention next to their tank. On command, they all removed their big tank helmets. To the surprise of the spectators, they all turned out to be female soldiers. They served as instructors in the tank corps teaching young recruits, although they themselves are not sent into battle. This is now a hotly debated issue - whether female soldiers should actually be allowed to serve in tanks alongside male soldiers in real battle, or in other combat roles for that matter. The jury is still out.

Grenfell Tower revisited...

Grenfell Tower fire (photo by Natalie Oxford, CC BY 4.0)

From Jerusalem to London and the inferno that incinerated the Grenfell Tower apartment building, but from a different angle. It is hard to grasp the enormity of the horror and pain endured by the dozens of victims and the grief and trauma of the bereaved relatives and friends. But again, it is important to consider possible conclusions above and beyond the obvious and possibly criminal culpability of the owners and builders, as well as the responsibility of public officials who signed their approval for such a firetrap.

But consider this: there are countless of similar apartment buildings throughout Britain and Europe. It's a safe bet, that some Muslim maniacs have been considering the potential 'opportunities' so visibly portrayed on TV screens around the world. Case in point, say two or three Daesh terrorists each take two Molotov cocktails, very easy to make, and go to a similar high-rise firetrap at two o'clock in the morning. They simply open the front door to the lobby, walk in and throw their fire-bombs. The lower floors would quickly go up in flames creating a firewall that would again prevent the hundreds of occupants above from getting out. It would be the Grenfell Tower nightmare all over. I don't know what the best answer is because I am not a security expert or fire marshall - I just ask questions. And no, I don't think I am giving wild ideas to terrorists - they are already thinking about it! Hopefully so are security and fire experts in Britain, Israel and everywhere else.


David Essing

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