31 December 2015, Eilat, Israel

03 January, 2016 Security

The Israeli government on 31 December released a statement asserting that two Arab Israeli citizens from Jerusalem were indicted for trying to bomb the Rio Hotel in Eilat, reports The Times of Israel.

The hotel appears to be a small, stylized boutique hotel on the beach amongst beachfront shops and restaurants.

The technical charges against the two perpetrators, Khalil Nimri and Ashraf Slaimeh, are: 1) forming a conspiracy, and 2) aiding an enemy in wartime.

The duo had originally planned stabbing attacks on Jews but changed their minds after figuring they would likely get caught or shot in the process. There has been a wave of stabbings of Jews in Israel in recent months where the attackers are usually shot and killed by armed civilians and/or security forces.

Nimro said he wanted to lash out against Israel as revenge for one of his childhood friends who was killed while stabbing a Jew in Jerusalem.

Nimri and Slaimeh supposedly met when they were working at a hotel in Eilat, so they had good knowledge of how hotels work. Tazpit News Agency says that Slaimeh reconnoitered the Rio Hotel on 30 November, posing as a potential customer. He took a tour of the hotel and asked scores of questions of the staff that aroused their suspicions. His queries included questions about hotel capacity, entrances and exits, when large groups of Jewish people might be coming in, etc. He also observed the hotel from the outside and specifically requested a room below the dining hall, which is where he aimed to plant a bomb.

As Slaimeh left the hotel, the staff told hotel security about his suspicious behavior, and they, in turn, alerted state security. An investigation began immediately, and the two were shortly thereafter arrested.

In the Rio Hotel case, the hotel staff likely saved scores of lives by, 1) identifying terrorist pre-attack behavior, and by, 2) alerting hotel security of the threat. Hotel security was professional enough to tell state security, which then apprehended the terrorists. It is a system to be emulated.

It is not clear if the hotel staff was trained to identify this threat behavior, or if they simply recognized it because they work in a high threat environment. Because it is Israel, however, it is likely that they had at least rudimentary counterterrorism training. Moreover, linkages between corporate and state security in Israel are practically built into the national system, offering yet another layer of security to the private sector, including the hotel industry.

While the system in this case worked very well, it is important to note that a more surreptitious reconnaissance by the terrorists might have gone undetected. Dedicated terrorist will always try to improve their intelligence and operational capacities in order to overcome state and private security. This is especially true in the current global security environment where Islamist jihadists maintain a relentless pace.

Sources and further reading:

Terror attack thwarted in tourist hotspot Eilat, The Times of Israel, 31 December 2015.

Terror Attacks by Israeli Arabs Thwarted In Eilat and Jaljulia,” TPS/Tazpit News Agency, 31 December 2015.

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