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Ben Gvir orders police chief to block celebrations for terrorist’s planned release

Minister meets with law enforcement after failure to prevent gatherings in support of convict’s accomplice, who was freed earlier this month; pair murdered a soldier in 1980

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

File: Arab Israeli Karim Younis is carried by friends and relatives following his release after 40 years in an Israeli prison for kidnapping and murdering an Israeli soldier, on January 5, 2023, in the northern Israeli town of 'Ara. (Jamal Awad/FLASH90)
File: Arab Israeli Karim Younis is carried by friends and relatives following his release after 40 years in an Israeli prison for kidnapping and murdering an Israeli soldier, on January 5, 2023, in the northern Israeli town of 'Ara. (Jamal Awad/FLASH90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir held an assessment on Tuesday with police commissioner Kobi Shabtai and other law enforcement officials ahead of the imminent release of a prisoner who served decades in jail for murdering a soldier.

Cousins Maher and Karim Younis, from the Arab town of ‘Ara in northern Israel, murdered Cpl. Avraham Bromberg in 1980. The pair were given life sentences but they were commuted in 2012 by then-president Shimon Peres to 40 years.

When Karim Younis was released earlier this month, public celebrations were held in his hometown despite a directive from Ben Gvir to prevent that.

During the meeting Tuesday, Ben Gvir, who leads the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, again instructed police to prevent celebrations upon Maher Younis’s release in the coming days, police said in a statement.

“The Israel Police will do everything according to the provisions of the law and will not allow the violation of the law during the release of the terrorist,” Shabtai said in remarks provided by police.

“We are prepared for the release, and at the same time I spoke a few days ago with a relative of the late Avraham Bromberg and assured him that the Israel Police will not allow any support or sympathy for the terrorist,” the commissioner added.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, left, holds an assessment with police commissioner Kobi Shabtai (second from right) regarding the release of convicted terrorist Maher Younis, January 17, 2023. (Israel Police)

In the days after Karim Younis’s release, celebrations were held in his hometown of ‘Ara. Three senior Palestinian Authority officials also paid him a visit, and subsequently had their entry permits to Israel revoked by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Ben Gvir summoned Shabtai for a dressing down following the celebrations in, the first implicit rebuke of police by the new far-right minister, who demanded and received extensive powers over the force’s policy during recent coalition negotiations.

“I trust you to do your best and I am hopeful that the incident will end with complete success and without support and incitement to terrorism, and we will bring good results for the State of Israel and our sovereignty,” Ben Gvir said, according to the police statement.

The cousins are membes of Israel’s Arab minority, many of whom identify as Palestinians.

In the attack in 1980, the two offered Bromberg a ride as he was heading home from his army base in the Golan Heights, then overpowered him, shot him in the head, and stole his weapon. They left him on the side of a road where he was found and brought to a hospital, but he died days later. The killers were arrested two years later and sentenced in 1983.

Fatah officials Azzam al-Ahmad (left), Mahmoud Aloul (2nd from right), stand next to Karim Younis (center) in the village of ‘Ara in northern Israel, January 7, 2023. (Social media; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Ben Gvir has spoken out in support of capital punishment for terror offenses. He has been a critic of police enforcement efforts against Jewish nationalists and what he considers a too-soft approach toward non-Jewish suspects.

Right-wing lawmakers are working on passing a bill to revoke the citizenship of convicted terrorists that cleared an initial reading last week.

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