Terror in Morocco: Malaysian PM says Israel should be blamed

May 17, 2003


1. At least four of the Moroccan attacks were aimed at Jews
2. "Husband and pregnant wife killed in Hebron suicide attack" (May 17, 2003)
3. Moroccan suicide attacks killed 41 people
4. "There were no Jews there at the time, because it was closed" (AP, May 17, 2003)
5. "Press release" (Simon Wiesenthal Center, May 17, 2003)
6. "Moroccan Jewish leader calls on country's Jews to immigrate to Israel"
7. "Iraqis tried to attack Israel's embassy in Romania" (AP, May 17, 2003)
8. "Russian curriculum to include Holocaust studies" (May 17, 2003)


[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach seven short news items (written by myself, except where stated otherwise).

1. "Husband and pregnant wife killed in Hebron suicide attack" (May 17, 2003). A Palestinian terrorist disguised as an Orthodox Jew blew himself up in the heart of Hebron's Jewish district at 7:15 on Saturday evening, killing a young Israeli and his pregnant wife. The man died at the site, his wife, who suffered severe multiple injuries, died after arriving at Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem. The attack occurred shortly before the first meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers.

2. Moroccan suicide attacks killed 41 people (including about 10 suicide bombers): Although most media are reporting that (only) two of the five coordinated attacks were aimed at "Jewish targets" (a Jewish community center and the old Jewish cemetery) it seems that at least four of the attacks were aimed at Jews. 40 Israelis were staying at the Safir Hotel targeted by the bombers. At least three thousand Jews from all over the world had arrived in Morocco to attend a celebration in memory of Rabbi Amram ben-Diwan, which was scheduled to take place in northern Morocco on Monday. Avi Avizemer, an Israeli writer and historian, was on the eighth floor of the hotel at the time of the explosion said that all the Israelis had been evacuated from the hotel and were now at a heavily guarded hotel in Marrakech. Israeli officials said no Jews or Israelis were among the casualties.

Another target was the Belgian Consulate. However, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel (one of the most anti-Israel politicians in Europe, and some would say anti-Semitic) said his country believed the consulate was "collateral damage," with the real target the Positano restaurant, owned by a French Jew of Moroccan origin, across the street. Restaurant owner Jean-Mark Levy said the bomb exploded in the middle of the narrow street and the consulate took most of the impact. Up to 4,000 Jews live in Morocco. The Synagogue and the nearby 'Allianz' Jewish center in the city were empty at the time due to the Sabbath. A spokesman for the Jewish community in Morocco said that the center's doors, window and roof were completely destroyed in the blast.

3. "There were no Jews there at the time, because it was closed" (The Associated Press, Morocco, May. 17, 2003). (Full story attached below.)

4. "Press release" (Simon Wiesenthal Center, May 17, 2003). The Simon Wiesenthal Center said that comments made by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir linking the Casablanca suicide bombings to Israeli policies is an open-ended invitation for more Islamic extremist mass murders. The Prime Minister said that the series of terrorist suicide bombing attacks in Casablanca were a direct result of Muslim anger at the "aggressive policies of Israel against the Palestinians". Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said: "Instead of taking on Al Qaeda and others who are hijacking Islam to legitimize mass murder of Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and other 'infidels', Mr. Mahatir has chosen to blame Israel for these horrors. How many more 9/11s, Balis, Riyadhs, and Casablancas will it take before the mainstream leaders take on the Islamisist terrorists and their supporters?"

5. "Moroccan Jewish leader calls on country's Jews to immigrate to Israel." The President of the Federation of Moroccan Jews, Sam Ben-Sheetrit, has called on Morocco's Jews to immigrate to Israel as soon as they could. Ben-Sheetrit said that there was a "negative atmosphere" towards Jews in Morocco, reported Israel Radio.

6. "Iraqis tried to attack Israel's embassy in Romania" (The Associated Press, Romania, May. 17, 2003). The Romanian spy service confirmed today that it averted terrorist attacks on Israeli, U.S. and Jewish targets in Romania planned by Iraqi operatives before the war in Iraq. According to the Romanian intelligence service, an Iraqi spy working under diplomatic cover was supposed to procure the weapons AG-7 grenade launchers to be used in the attacks.

7. "Russian curriculum to include Holocaust studies" (May. 17, 2003). The Russian Education Minister Vladimir Filipov that Russia is planning to increase its Holocaust-related educational activities, and to build of a Holocaust museum.


"There were no Jews there at the time, because it was closed"
The Associated Press
May 17, 2003

It was a normal Friday evening of bingo in the upscale Casa de Espana club and restaurant in downtown Casablanca when several near-simultaneous explosions transformed the night into chaos and killed at least 30 bystanders.

"We had just been served paella, and they were calling out the numbers. Then, 'Boom!,' a first blast it was like a thunderclap," said Mohammed Zerrouki, a medical technician having dinner and playing bingo with his friends.

On Saturday afternoon, the official Moroccan news agency MAP said the attacks killed 41 people about 10 of them terrorists. MAP said about 100 people were injured.

Witnesses and officials described deafening bombs set off by suicide attackers. The targets were a Jewish community center and an old cemetery, the Belgian Consulate, a major downtown hotel and the club.

Zerrouki's head was covered in a hastily wrapped white bandage. He grimaced in pain from what he said were bomb splinters that bore into his flesh.

The pastel pink walls of the restaurant bore few traces of the devastation that rocked the popular night spot and several other locations in the city, the economic heart of Morocco.

"I'm here today because God saved my life," Zerrouki said.

At the Jewish community center, about a kilometer (half-mile) away from the Casa de Espana, rubble was strewn everywhere and the front door was blown off.

"There were no Jews there at the time, because it was closed," said Mohammed Aithammou, the owner of a nearby cafe, where many of the windows had been blown out.

Witnesses described horrifying scenes of destruction.

"I heard the bombs and then everything started burning," Rafael Bermudez, president of the social club housing the restaurant, told Spanish National Radio. "Everyone was on the ground and there was blood everywhere. It was horrible."

Victims screamed in shock and pain. Others simply held their heads and cried in disbelief. Body parts were strewn about and pools of blood were almost everywhere.

Ambulances hauled off the wounded, many with their clothes blown off. Most victims apparently were Moroccans. However, six foreigners two Spaniards, two Italians and two French also were killed, according to Said Ouhalia, medical chief at Azerroes Hospital.

Hundreds of curiosity seekers and family members rushed to the scene, seeking information about the first terrorist attack in Morocco in nine years.

The attacks occurred as Moroccans celebrated the birth of the first son of King Mohammed VI. The monarch was traveling to Casablanca later Saturday.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.