(CNSNews.com) – At least 64 Americans have been killed in Palestinian terror attacks since 1993, but U.S. authorities up until now have never prosecuted any of the perpetrators in U.S. courts.
On Tuesday, the Department of Justice unsealed an indictment and warrant of arrest for an Arab terrorist involved in a 2001 suicide bombing in a Jerusalem pizza restaurant in which two Americans were among 15 people killed. (See related story)
The indictment against Ahlam Aref Ahmad al-Tamimi, who has been living freely in Jordan since her 2011 release in an Israeli-Hamas prisoner exchange, has been under seal since July 15, 2013.
Scores of Americans have died at the hands of Palestinian terrorists in the Middle East since Israeli and Palestinian leaders signed the Oslo interim peace accords at the White House in September 1993.
The attacks have included suicide bombings, especially in 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2006, with targets including public buses, restaurants and a university cafeteria. Others have been stabbed or shot to death, including in drive-by shootings.
In 2005, the Bush administration’s Department of Justice established an Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism (OVT), a requirement under 2004 appropriations legislation.
Eleven years later, a congressional panel wanted to know why the department had not prosecuted a single Palestinian perpetrator of terror attacks that killed or wounded Americans.
During a Feb. 2016 hearing of the House Oversight subcommittee on national security on the role of the OVT, with a particular focus on Palestinian terrorism, chairman Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) pressed a senior Department of Justice official on the matter.
“The committee has counted that since ’93 at least 64 Americans have been killed, as well as two unborn children, and 91 have been wounded by terrorists in Israel and the disputed territories,” DeSantis said. “How many terrorists who have killed or wounded Americans in Israel or the disputed territories has the United States indicted, extradited, or prosecuted during this time period?”
“I think the answer is – is none,” replied Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brad Wiegmann.
Asked whether the department plans to prosecute any such Palestinian terrorism cases, Wiegmann said there were “a number of open investigations” but declined to comment on the status or to say how many there were.
“I don’t have the number and I don’t think we want to comment exactly ’cos the more we say about the number of investigations we have the more we tell the bad guys who we’re trying to get, so—”
DeSantis recalled that Wiegmann had said in his opening testimony that going after the perpetrators of terrorism against Americans was the “highest priority,” but noted that the record in this instance was “zero-for-64.”
In response to another question, Wiegmann said that the U.S. has acted against a “significant number” of terrorists who have killed Americans elsewhere in the world.
DeSantis raised concerns that the administration may be reluctant to go after Palestinian terrorists lest doing so impact Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts or harm the Palestinian Authority. (P.A.)
“Let me ask you that straight up: Is that a consideration of the Department of Justice?”
“I can assure you that that is absolutely not the case,” Wiegmann replied.
He said the State Department had never asked the Justice Department to handle Palestinian terrorism cases differently, and added that the State Department has “nothing to say about cases that we bring.”
A month after that congressional hearing, Palestinian terror claimed another American life, when U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force was stabbed to death by a Palestinian who wounded another nine people, in Jaffa, Tel Aviv.
P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization hailed the terrorist, who was killed during the attack, as a “heroic martyr.”