DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources reveal that just four days before a single Palestinian killer murdered 8 Mercaz Harav students in Jerusalem on March 6, two Palestinians were frightened away from another Jerusalem yeshiva, Porath Yosef, on March 2. The pair were challenged March 2 by armed security guards on the door and they are still at large.
The Jerusalem police failed to sound the alarm after the guards reported the incident. The guards described two Palestinians who appeared at Porath Yosef demanding entry with a large carton like the one in which Ala Abu Dhaim carried his assault rifle, guns and ammo four days later. They claimed they had been commissioned to do some work in the institution and quoted the names of people associated with the yeshiva. But when asked by the guards to open the box, the two Palestinians backed off saying they were going to pick up tools from their vehicle. They were not seen again.
Responding to the guards’ call, the police dismissed the incident as a misunderstanding. No alerts were circulated and Mercaz Harav did not post security guards. It was only after the massacre Thursday that the police recalled the Porath Yosef incident and realized they had missed a danger signal.
They were also forced to conclude that one or more Palestinian terror cells are on the loose in Jerusalem and could be targeting any of the hundreds of Jewish religious institutions in the city.
The security services declared an immediate general alert across the country, focusing on Jerusalem, which remains in force. The West Bank was sealed.
The investigation has so far not pinned down the organization or organizations behind the yeshiva murders. The police commissioner Dudi Cohen’s insistence that it was a one-off operation and not the opening shot of a third Palestinian uprising (intifada), as some security circles are suggesting, is not taken seriously, given the spate of violence which has erupted across the country, Jerusalem and the West Bank in the last ten days.
The Shin Bet is awaiting the results of an inquiry into Jerusalem police procedures and their failure to sound the alarm after the Porath Yosef incident.