A Jordanian man who was employed in the southern port city of Eilat was indicted Friday over the assault of two Israeli men several weeks ago, in what prosecutors are saying was a terror attack.
According to the indictment, which was filed at the Beersheba District Court, Taher Halef had been planning to attack Israelis for over a decade. He is accused of several counts of attempted murder, as well as a terrorist conspiracy.
Two Israelis, who were working as divers at the port, were seriously wounded when Halef attacked them with a hammer on November 30, police said at the time. In addition to the injured Israelis, who were brought to the city’s Yoseftal Hospital with head injuries, a second Jordanian worker who tried to restrain the attacker was lightly hurt.
Halef was arrested following the incident, and police said several hours later that an initial probe had raised suspicions that the attack was nationalistically motivated.
The suspect began working in Israel days before the attack after receiving a daily work permit from the Population and Immigration Authority. Friday’s indictment said he had succeeded in passing the screening process despite being flagged as a potential terrorist by the Jordanian manpower agency that first interviewed him.
Israel in 2014 granted permission for 1,500 Jordanians to work in Eilat, the Red Sea resort town located directly across the border from the Jordanian city of Aqaba. The countries signed a peace treaty in 1994, but relations have been tumultuous due to occasional violent incidents and political disagreements.
The indictment said that Halef, who identifies as Palestinian, received help from cousins in Jordan on previous occasions that he sought to carry out attacks.
Allegedly, his first terrorist plot was in 2008, when, after seeing television footage of the first war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Operation Cast Lead, he planned to carry out a shooting attack at the border. The indictment said that Halef’s father foiled his son’s plan by blocking the road while he was already en route to the border, having stolen the father’s gun.
During the summer of 2017, the indictment said, Halef and his cousins resolved to enter Israel through the border fence and carry out a shooting attack. However, after surveying the landscape, they realized their plan was unfeasible.
It was then that he decided to obtain an entry permit to Israel and carry out a stabbing attack in Jerusalem. To that end, he allegedly enlisted the help of his brothers and cousins, who agreed to travel to Israel with him.
While they were initially turned down by an agency in Amman, Halef eventually received a permit to work in Eilat.
On his second day working in Israel, after crossing over from Aqaba, he attacked the two Israeli divers at the port, named in the indictment as Tamir Gross and Yevgeny Kolomitz, as well as the second Jordanian worker, who attempted to stop him.
Allegedly, during the attack, he yelled at the other Jordanian, “We’re Muslims and they’re Jews.”
His lawyer, Khaled Mahajna, insisted Friday that Halef’s assault was criminal in nature rather than a terror attack.