ISA Stories of Famous Case

Thirty-six years after refrigerator attack in Jerusalem killed 14, Shin Bet tells how terrorist behind it was caught – and freed.

Gil Ronen, | updated: 11:40

Ibrahim Jabara.
Ibrahim Jabara.
ISA website

Thirty-six years ago, on July 4, 1976, an explosive charge planted inside a refrigerator killed 14 and wounded 62 in the heart of Jerusalem. 

On its website, the Israel Security Agency (ISA, or Shin Bet) tells how it caught the man who planned the attack, Ahmad Ibrahim Jabara, in 1976. Jabara was released in 2003 as part of a goodwill gesture toward Jordan.
 
Initial questioning of eyewitnesses provided a description of the vehicle that was used to transport the refrigerator to the place where it was detonated – a Volkswagen van with Shechem license plates – but not the license plate number. There were two people in the van: a driver and a porter who carted the refrigerator to the spot near Zion Square where he left it, and where it exploded some minutes later..
 
The best witnesses the ISA located were a Jewish driver who drove behind the van for some time and an 11-year-old boy. Both underwent hypnosis to try and help them recollect the license plate number, but to no avail.
 
A sketch of the suspects was prepared and hundreds of people who bore any kind of resemblance to it were arrested. Employers whose Arab workers did not show up for work on the date after the explosion were questioned, but also to no avail. All 100 owners of Volkswagen vans in Shechem were summoned for questioning but none were deemed to be suspects.
 
The first break in the case came unexpectedly eight months later. A policeman spotted a suspicious looking car parked at the side of the road between Silwan and the Old City. When the driver opened the trunk – the vehicle turned out to be a car bomb, complete with an explosive charge and a gas balloon.
 
The driver was arrested and under interrogation provided the names of eight people, who were all arrested. One of them, a hotel waiter, confessed to being part of the terror squad and told the investigators something that they hadn’t asked about. He said that he had recently been in Amman, Jordan, and that while he was getting his hair cut, the barber pointed at a Pontiac that rolled by and said: “This is the refrigerator hero.” He also said that the man was from the village of Turmus Aya in Samaria.
 
Three months later, a Fatah cell was arrested near Tulkarm. The arrest led to the exposure and arrest of two more terror cells. In their interrogations, these suspects told of Ahmed Ibrahim Jabara, aka Abu Sukar, an Arab-American from Turmus Aya who recruited them and who serves as a liaison to the Fatah headquarters in Syria. In September 1976 Jabara entered Israel and was caught.
 
He eventually confessed to his part in the planning and execution of the refrigerator massacre. His partner was Bassem Tabila of Shechem. Tabila fled to Jordan before he could be arrested.
 
Jabara was put on trial in June 1977 and sentenced to life imprisonment plus 30 years’ confinement.
 
He was released in June 2003 after 27 years in jail, as part of an Israeli “good faith” gesture before the Aqaba Summit with King Hussein of Jordan. PLO head Yasser Arafat named him an advisor on prisoners’ affairs. 



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