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Security Tightened at Construction Sites in Jerusalem

Following two consecutive bulldozer attacks, Jerusalem police have begun to check IDs and criminal records of local Arab workers.
By Ze'ev Ben-Yechiel
First Publish: 7/24/2008, 12:22 PM

Security has been heightened at construction sites around Jerusalem, following two back-to-back terrorist attacks by Arab construction workers using bulldozers and tractors to kill Jewish civilians. In an attempt to reduce the risk of Arab workers becoming terrorists while on the job, Jerusalem police have introduced a series of new measures.

Tuesday’s attack, which left 24 injured, was a repeat of the deadly July 2 rampage that killed three people. Police and the General Security Services worry that the two attacks will inspire similar attacks among the thousands of Arab construction workers around the city.

Among the new measures that Jerusalem police chief Ilan Franco announced are random spot checks of Arab workers from eastern Jerusalem, as well as a general review of their criminal records. The terrorist in Tuesday's attack had a criminal record and was a relative of a Hamas legislator who has been jailed by Israeli authorities.

Heightened police presence was evident throughout construction sites in the city the day after the attack, and the measures were already implemented on a smaller scale following the attack three weeks ago, according to public security officials.

Both terrorists were employees of the Jerusalem Municipality, and Husam Taysir Dwayat, the first bulldozer murderer, also had a criminal record, including a two-year sentence for the rape of a Jewish woman. After several years working for the Municipality, Dwayat got into his work vehicle and murdered three Jews, crushing men, women and children. Ghassan Abu Tir, Tuesday’s terrorist, was previously convicted of drug and theft offenses.

The Jerusalem Municipality was unaware of the two terrorists’ criminal records, but even if the city had access to the records it would not have been enough to prevent them from getting hired.

Israeli law generally forbids employers from checking prospective employees’ criminal records, unlike the United States and other countries, which allow the checks.  However, the police have the authority to run background checks, and Wednesday officers from the Jerusalem police district were present at construction sites to question local Arab workers and check their IDs.

So far there has been no move from the Jerusalem Municipality or the Knesset to allow employers to conduct background checks on Arab workers.