The family connections of the Toulouse killer captivates Israeli newspapers this morning, with three of the four papers leading with the arrest of Mohamed Merah’s brother on suspicion of helping with the shooting at a Jewish school in the French city. (Maariv is the sole holdout.)
Yedioth Ahronoth, with the headline “Brothers in murder,” details the many open questions still surrounding the case, such as where Merah got money for two bikes and a 20,000 euro gun before the terror attacks (he is also thought to have killed three soldiers), who lived with Merah, and does the fact that the cellphone of Merah’s brother Abed al-Khader Merah was near the school at the time of the shooting mean he was involved. Yedioth reports that police also believe there may be a third person involved who is still roaming free, Merah’s mystery roommate. French police visited the apartment in 2011 over a dispute with neighbors and noted there was a man of Algerian descent living there. Now he is not. “The question is when [did he leave]? Did he leave the apartment in the last year, or after the attack?”
In Israel Hayom (headline “Family terror cell”) the story focuses both on the surviving brother’s statement of pride for his terrorist kin, as well as Merah’s last moments, including the fact that he was apparently shot 20 times, but did not die until he jumped off the balcony. The paper also has more details about Merah’s apparent stay in Israel, when he was arrested briefly in Jerusalem for having a penknife on him, according to a report in Le Monde. Israeli police say there is no indication he was ever here.
Maariv takes a different route, ignoring the brother for all intents and purposes, with a report that Merah was an informer for the French security service, also according to a report in Le Monde. French security apparently labeled him “non-dangerous,” until he cut off contact at the beginning of the year.
The papers also have reports out of Nice, France and Lvov, Ukraine, that Jewish graves were desecrated.
Maariv’s top story deals with possible upcoming disruptions to train service as workers again threaten to strike. The rail administration stepped up its battle against the union by firing many top members, including leader Gila Edrey. Unless the situation is resolved by a hearing today, the union says, the employees will step up their own efforts by halting work. In the meantime, ticket checkers will not be checking tickets. Maariv also continues on the domestic front with pictures of Kadima leadership contenders Shaul Mofaz and Tzipi Livni glad-handing the elderly and babies around the country. The party’s primary will be later this week, so expect a lot more of where those pictures came from.
From Teddy to Toulouse
Haaretz leads off with the Toulouse brother story, but has a large above-the-fold story on soccer team Beitar Jerusalem, whose rowdy, right-wing and at times racist fans have drawn local and international condemnation. The opinion-laden article explains the police will now investigate an incident last week where some 300 fans stormed the capital’s Malha Mall (next to the soccer club’s stadium) to celebrate a win, beating up Arab workers and shouting anti-Muslim slogans along the way. No people were arrested after the incident, and Haaretz published a story on Friday asking why, prompting an official about-face. Using the murder last week of three children and a rabbi outside a Jewish school as a jumping-off point, the writers wonder what would happen if this were anti-Semitic soccer hooliganism in France. “It is clear what the feeling would have been in Israel if hundreds of soccer fans in France attacked Jews, shouted anti-Semitic slurs and beat them up, and if no one was arrested despite eyewitness accounts and film footage.”
Yedioth has a story on a crime wave sweeping army bases in the south of the country, where everything from a jeep and tank targets to mortars and night vision goggles have been stolen. “They come with tractors and steal the targets. We’ve gotten to a point where we don’t have any targets to shoot at, and our drills have gone from [live-fire] to dry,” said a reserve soldier at the Tze’elim army base. (Or a multitude of soldiers in unison, if Yedioth is to be believed.)
Maariv has a story that Tel Aviv University has a launched a probe into a teacher who attended an unpermitted rally on campus agitating for Palestinian hunger striker Hana Shalabi, an Islamic Jihad member who has been in administrative detention for over a month. The school decided to investigate Dr. Anat Matar after a number of students complained to the rector.
Pie in the sky
In Yedioth’s op-ed section, Alex Fishman wonders what has happened to Israel’s satellite program, which is being defunded but which he says is needed to collect intelligence on Iran and counter their threat. “Now the prime minister and defense minister need to come and explain their crazy logic: On one side they are focusing on Iran as a threat to the existence of the state of Israel, and on the other they are cutting off one of the most important Israeli answers to this threat.”
In Haaretz, Gideon Levy drew a straight line between the massacre in France and soccer hooliganism in Jerusalem. “At the same time that a terrorist is mercilessly murdering kids in Toulouse, in Jerusalem hundreds of young people are running amok — not yet killing but already threatening to do so. “Death to Jews” has already come true in Toulouse, horribly, and it shook the world. “Death to Arabs” in Malha is still only a slogan, but it is we who created it and it provoked no reaction among us.”