It has been a busy year of plotting death and destruction for Hamas leadership. As we noted Thursday, Hamas has three key operating bases in three separate locations – Gaza, Qatar and Turkey.
The Turkish operation may be the most active in plotting terror attacks. And the man who runs that base, Saleh Al-Arouri, has risen to prominence as a result. Al-Arouri has been linked to a series of terrorist plots and attacks primarily aimed at West Bank targets, an area where the terrorist group hopes to regain strength and popular support.
As a new Investigative Project on Terrorism report on Al-Arouri shows, while his infamy may be relatively new, his efforts to help Hamas foment terror date back years and are well known among American prosecutors and investigators.
Al-Arouri is a longtime Hamas military commander who operates openly in Turkey, a NATO member country and ostensibly an ally of the United States and the West.
He was the first Hamas official to acknowledge the group's responsibility for the June abduction and murder of three Jewish teenagers in Israel.
Naftali Fraenkel, one of the murdered teens, was a U.S. citizen. The U.S. government is authorized to investigate and prosecute murder and attempted murder of U.S. citizens committed in foreign countries under Title 18, Section 2332 of the United States Code. This statutory authority is the basis for the FBI and other federal agencies to investigate many foreign terror attacks against U.S. citizens and for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to bring U.S. criminal charges against the perpetrators of such attacks.
U.S. law allows victims of foreign terror attacks to sue those responsible. Foreign state sponsors of terrorism that are officially designated as such by the U.S. government also can be civilly liable for terror actions against the U.S. Turkey, of course, is not a U.S. designated state sponsor of terrorism.
In August, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the founder and director of the Israeli NGO law center Shurat HaDin, wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting the U.S. government investigate, prosecute and extradite Al-Arouri from Turkey on charges related to Fraenkel's murder.
Such legal action would not be the first time Al-Arouri's name appeared in federal court proceedings. In 2003, three Hamas operatives were indicted in Chicago for a racketeering conspiracy. Those operatives were Hamas political leader Mousa Abu Marzook, and Chicago residents Muhammad Salah and Abdelhaleem Ashqar. Marzook was in Syria and was never tried under the indictment. Salah and Ashqar were ultimately convicted of obstruction and contempt violations and sentenced to prison terms.
Al-Arouri was named among the "Hamas Co-Conspirators" in a superseding indictment in that case. Al-Arouri was described as a high-ranking Hamas military leader dating back to his role as a Hamas student cell leader at Hebron University in the early 1990s." He received "tens of thousands of dollars for Hamas-related activities" from Salah which were used to buy weapons for terrorist attacks, the indictment said.
In addition, Al-Arouri appears in a 1999 federal court ruling involving a civil forfeiture action against Muhammad Salah. The court order described a 1992 trip Salah took to Israel and the Palestinian territories. There, he "funneled approximately $100,000 to an alleged HAMAS operative, Salah Al-Arouri, which, according to both Salah and Al-Arouri, was used to purchase weapons. Al-Arouri allegedly admitted to Israeli officials that he gave an individual named Musa Dudin approximately $45,000 of the money he received from Salah so that Dudin could purchase weapons in September 1992. Al-Arouri further related that Dudin purchased the weapons as planned and that these weapons were subsequently used in terrorist attacks, including a suicide attack resulting in the murder of an Israeli soldier in Hebron in October 1992."
That was among a series of terrorist attacks "supported with weapons and money provided by Al-Arouri with funds he received from Salah" that led Israel to deport 415 Hamas operatives to Lebanon in December 1992, the court ruling noted.
As mentioned, Al-Arouri operates openly in Turkey. The first statement admitting that Hamas was responsible for kidnapping Fraenkel and two other students came during an August gathering of Islamic clerics. From that base, Israeli officials say, Al-Arouri also plotted a coup against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. If Al-Arouri succeeded, it would dramatically threaten U.S. national security interests in the region.
American law enforcement has the power to investigate Al-Arouri for killing Fraenkel, the American teenager. Failure to do so only enables his incessant plotting to kill people in Israel and, perhaps, his Palestinian foes.
Read the full report on Saleh Al-Arouri here.