On a hot summer day in 2001 Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi led Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri, and the other members of her team, to a busy location in the center of Jerusalem.
When al-Masri entered the target place, a pizza shop, it was around 2:00 pm and the restaurant was full, mostly with mothers and their children. He carried with him a guitar case.
The team was well prepared. Abdallah Jamal Barghouti had been paid $500 by Marwan Barghouti, the man in charge, to outfit them with materials. Mohammad Daghlas had delivered the supplies. With so much assistance, the group was bound to be successful.
Their mission was carried out and 15 people were killed that day. At least another 115, some who had just been passing, were injured. Hamas supplied the money for the violence and was undoubtedly pleased.
Of the 15 murdered, eight were under the age of 20. Two were Americans, one of those was a pregnant woman. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine immediately claimed credit. As the investigation progressed, authorities confirmed it; the guilt belonged to Hamas.
The terrorist group stated that the bombing was in response to an incident 10 days earlier where two Hamas commanders were killed, reportedly by Israel.
For the bomb maker, it was the latest in a long string of attacks. In November 2004, he was sentenced to 67 life sentences. His known body count included 66 civilians.
The destruction they wrought that day was vicious. People who had been injured and witnesses’ statements haunted the world;
“My two daughters who had gone to the car-park arrived seconds later. The older one came inside and found Miriam and Yocheved. They were on fire. She managed to put out the flames but was then rushed away by rescue workers. I couldn’t leave. I was torn. The rescue workers kept dragging me to the door. I’d start to go, then run back screaming, ‘My girls, my girls!’ I wanted to help them.”
“The last time I saw my brother Avraham Yitzhak, he was lying on a stretcher in an ambulance. He had a bandage on his face. He was four years old. Now our parents are not alive either. After that they took me on a stretcher to the hospital, and I had to have an operation to remove the screws that entered my liver and leg”
“I heard a tremendous explosion, and I was thrown up a metre into the air. I knew immediately that it was a bomb attack, and a catastrophic one. There were people – babies – thrown through the window and covered with blood. The whole street was covered with blood and bodies: the dead and the dying.”
The attackers, the ones who had survived, were quickly caught. They were literally joyful with the work they had performed. Al-Tamimi was 20 the day she ended so many lives.
“Afterwards, when I took the bus, the Palestinians around Damascus Gate [in Jerusalem] were all smiling. You could sense that everybody was happy. When I got on the bus, nobody knew that it was me who had led [the suicide bomber to the target]… I was feeling quite strange, because I had left [the bomber] ‘Izz Al-Din behind, but inside the bus, they were all congratulating one another. They didn’t even know one another, yet they were exchanging greetings…While I was sitting on the bus, the driver turned on the radio. But first, let me tell you about the gradual rise in the number of casualties. While I was on the bus and everybody was congratulating one another…”
She was a well-educated journalist who was responsible for gathering the intelligence for the attack. She also led the human bomb to his target. The two spoke in English so they could pass for tourists.
She was arrested a month after the attack and showed no remorse for her crimes. She added to the story about the day of the attack, expressing her initial frustration;
“I admit that I was a bit disappointed, because I had hoped for a larger toll. Yet when they said “three dead,” I said: ‘God be praised’…Two minutes later, they said on the radio that the number had increased to five. I wanted to hide my smile, but I just couldn’t. God be praised, it was great. As the number of dead kept increasing, the passengers were applauding.”
The depraved woman was sentenced to 16 life sentences and an additional 15 years in prison in 2003. However she would only serve eight years, being released in October 2011.
In a trade that shocked many, al-Tamimi was part of a prisoner swap. Her release secured the freedom of a captive Israeli soldier named Gilad Shalit. Eight years had not softened her at all. In an interview after her release with Jordanian Ammon News website she stated;
“I do not regret what happened. Absolutely not. This is the path. I dedicated myself to Jihad for the sake of God, and God granted me success. You know how many casualties there were [in the 2001 attack on the Sbarro pizzeria]. This was made possible by God. Do you want me to denounce what I did? That’s out of the question. I would do it again today, and in the same manner.”
Currently working as a TV host in her home country of Jordan, she continues to surround herself with terrorists publically. She invited Hamas member Saleh Arouri for an interview on her show. He is guilty of ordering the kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers in June 2014.
In a historic move, the U.S is now seeking to extradite her from Jordan so she can stand trial for the two American murders. She has been placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List and is being charged with “conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the U.S. against U.S. nationals.”
This will likely cause outrage in Jordan, where she is a celebrity. The country has stated that “their constitution does not allow for the extradition of Jordanian nationals.”
The President of the Israeli Law Center has expressed a sentiment that will probably be felt by many;
“We are glad that the U.S. Department of Justice has decided to move forward against this notorious mass murderer. We have been requesting for a long time that this unrepentant Palestinian terrorist be rearrested, extradited and prosecuted by American law enforcement officials. It was outrageous that Israel released this criminal with so much innocent blood on her hands and who has publicly rejoiced that she killed eight Jewish children. For too long Jordan has become a safe haven for Palestinian terrorists and, hopefully, this is a change of policy for the new Trump administration, to start to pursue the numerous Palestinians who have killed U.S. citizens in Israel.”