Israeli Court Indicts Jordanian for Attempted Murder in Eilat Attack

Taher Khalef, a day-time employee who attacked two workers with a hammer, had reportedly been planning to attack Israelis for over a decade

Taher Khalef in the in Be’er Sheva District Court, December 21, 2018.
Eli Hershkovitz

A Jordanian man was indicted on Friday for the attempted murder of two Israelis working in the port of Eilat last month. Taher Khalef, a Jordanian citizen who was employed as a construction worker at the port, attacked two Israelis with a hammer three weeks ago, leaving both of them in moderate condition.

Prosecutors called it a terrorist attack in the indictment filed in Be’er Sheva District Court, and claimed Khalef has been planning to attack Israelis for over a decade. He managed to get past Israeli security forces who conduct background checks of Jordanians before granting them entry permits to Israel.

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Khalef was indicted on a number of counts of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit a terrorist act and other crimes related to terrorism. His lawyer denied that the attack was an act of terrorism, saying it was a criminal offense stemming from a disagreement between coworkers.

According to the indictment, Khalef received a daily work permit in November and then planned to carry out an attack. On November 29 he entered Israel and worked in the port of Eilat for the first time, returning to Jordan that night. Upon returning home he told cousins of his plans to carry out a terrorist attack against Jews and asked them to film a video clip of him. Khalef also informed his family  of his plan and made a will. He spoke in praise of jihad, ending with a line from the Koran saying that those who die as a martyr for Allah are not considered dead but are alive with God. Khalef was unsuccessful in his attempt to obtain a gun, but decided to use a hammer instead in the attack.

The next day, his second day working in Israel, Khalef carried out the attack. He chose two divers, the only two Jews working in the area where he was and decided to murder them, prosecutors say. Another Jordanian worker tried to stop Khalef, but he told him: “We’re Muslims and they are Jews.”

Prosecutors say Khalef views himself as a Palestinian, growing up in a nationalistic home and viewing jihad as an important act.

In June 2014, the Israeli government approved the entry of up to 1,500 Jordanian workers for the hotel industry in Eilat. In addition, building contractors in Eilat could bring in Jordanian workers on a daily basis, as long as they return to Jordan at night.