Friday, November 28, 2008

“Thanksgiving Massacre” in Mumbai Targets Westerners, Indians and Jews

Marcus Sheff: 011-972-2-6236427, marcuss@theisraelproject.org
Leah Soibel: 011-972-2-6236427, leahs@theisraelproject.org
www.theisraelproject.org

In the Indian city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) terrorists killed more than 125 people and wounded another 300 in numerous strikes across the city. The attacks began on Wednesday night (Nov. 26) when gunmen invaded two five star hotels, a restaurant, train station, a Jewish center and a number of other sites, armed with assault rifles, hand grenades and explosives. [1] Indian security forces are operating against the terrorists at this time The Jewish center in Mumbai, a communal site of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement with visitor centers all over India, is still under siege with hostages being held inside. Among those captured are the Rabbi of the center, Gavriel Holtzberg, his wife Rivka and six others. The couple’s two-year-old son and a staff member at the center managed to escape the building. Sandra Samuel, 44, the cook who pulled the boy out the building, said she saw Rabbi Holzberg, his wife Rivka and two other unidentified guests lying on the floor, apparently “unconscious.” [2]

Rivka Holtzberg’s family live in the Israeli city of Afula. Her father, Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, said “I got a call telling us to listen to news of terrorists attacking in Mumbai. We tried to get in touch but all the systems went down and later we heard that the terrorists stormed the building and they were being held hostage.” [3]

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder & president of The Israel Project said “Just like the Passover Massacre in Netanya, Israel, this attack was by Muslim extremists who are targeting those who love freedom, tolerance and peace. While the victims were not sitting at their tables eating turkey, the timing of the attack was clearly done to capture news headlines as Americans celebrate one of their most important holidays. Indeed, Thanksgiving is a celebration of freedom and cooperation -- the opposite of what these Muslim extremist terrorists want for the world. The world must work together to stop such threats no matter from where they stem.”

Israel’s Foreign Minister and Vice Prime Minister Tzipi Livni stated on Nov.27, “I condemn this criminal terrorist attack that is still going on in Mumbai. This is further painful evidence that the terrorist threat is the greatest challenge which Israel and the international community have to face. Nothing justifies the unforgivable slaughter of innocents; it is therefore incumbent on the international community to cooperate in the ongoing war against this contemptible, heinous manifestation of terror. I would like to convey my sincere condolences to the families of the victims. Our thoughts and prayers are with the government and people of India.” [4]

Israel’s Foreign Ministry is currently preparing to send paramedics and other rescue personnel to Mumbai. The ministry is also examining the possibility of sending a team of Israeli doctors based in New Delhi to Mumbai to assist the local authorities in treating the injured. Plans are also put in place for Israel to deliver medical supplies and other equipment to India. [5]

Israel’s international emergency medical organization Magen David Adom Spokesman Zaki Heller, who is in charge of sending aid said, “We are preparing to send a team of doctors, paramedics, medical assistants and professionals and are preparing for the possibility that we may be called to treat victims in hospitals or locate families and friends. We have already made contact with the joint organization's envoys in the area to help us understand what is needed.” [6]

A report on Thursday morning (Nov. 27) from an Indian news outlet said that gunfire was heard at the Chabad House, and three people were killed there, including a couple and a 16-year-old. [7]

Indian Special Forces succeeded in killing one of the terrorists in the Chabad house although another four are still suspected to be inside. The Israeli Foreign Ministry stated that it was trying to locate 20 missing Israelis in Mumbai. [8]

A spokesman for the Chabad movement in New York, Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, said “It seems that the terrorists commandeered a police vehicle which allowed them easy access to the area of Chabad House and threw a grenade at a gas pump nearby” adding “Pray that we should hear good news.” [19]

Mumbai's Chabad House is a popular stop for Israeli tourists. The Holtzbergs offer visitors a number of different programs and also provide kosher food. The word “Chabad” is a Hebrew acronym for the three intellectual faculties of: chachmah-wisdom, binah-comprehension and da'at-knowledge. Today, 4,000 full-time emissary families direct more than 3,300 Chabad institutions around the world. [10]

Israel and India opened diplomatic relations in 1992. Since then, relations between the two countries have blossomed with bilateral trade standing at more than two billion dollars. [11]

Indian police say that the dead include 14 police officers, 81 Indian nationals and six foreigners. A Japanese businessman and an Italian national were confirmed to be among the dead. The police added that four suspected terrorists have also been killed and nine arrested. A group calling itself the Deccan Mujahadeen, which was previously unknown, is claiming responsibility for the attacks in a series of emails. The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the attacks appear to probably have “external linkages.” [12]

The two hotels targeted, the Taj Mahal Palace and the Oberoi Trident, are both luxurious hotels popular with foreign businesspeople and tourists. According to eyewitness reports, the gunmen entered the various sites and demanded that people with American and British passports indentify themselves. [13]

In an address to the nation, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said “The well-planned and well-orchestrated attacks, probably with external linkages, were intended to create a sense of terror by choosing high-profile targets.” He added “I'm confident the people of India will rise united to face this challenge to the country's security and integrity.” [14]

India is an extremely popular destination for young Israeli backpackers and thousands of them visit the country every year after finishing their national army service or after their university studies.

Experts available for press comment

Eitan Azani, Deputy Director Institute for Counter Terrorism, IDC Herzliya,
Contact through spokesperson
Office: 972-9-960-2754; e-mail: pr@idc.ac.il

Israel Defense Forces Spokespersons Unit, International Desk
Office: 972-2-548-5800; 972-2-548-5801

Rabbi Josh Runyan, Editor of Chabad.org, Spokesman Chabad-Lubavitch International
Cell: 00-1-484-802-2138

Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, Spokesman for Chabad in America
Cell: 00-1-917-804-7137

Yeruham Mandola, Magen David Adom Spokesman
Office: 972-3-630-0222
Cell: 972-52-256-9955

Footnotes

[1] “104 killed in Mumbai terror rampage,” The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 26, 2008, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1227702333602&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

[2] “104 killed in Mumbai terror rampage,” The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 26, 2008, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1227702333602&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull; Horovitz, David, Wagner, Matthew, “'Eight Israelis held by terrorists in Mumbai Chabad House'” The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 27, 2008, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1227702336066&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

[3] Ashkenazi, Eli, “'I just grabbed the baby and ran,' says Mumbai Chabad employee,” Haaretz, Nov. 27, 2008, http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1041569.html

[4] “FM Livni condemns Mumbai terror attacks,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nov. 27, 2008, http://tinyurl.com/6rpw7q

[5] Sofer, Roni, “Israel to send medical team to Mumbai,” YnetNews, Nov. 27, 2008, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3629501,00.html; “MDA preparing to send rescue personnel to Mumbai,” The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 27, 2008, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1227702341144&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

[6] Sofer, Roni, “Israel to send medical team to Mumbai,” YnetNews, Nov. 27, 2008, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3629501,00.html

[7] “Mumbai Chabad gunmen: We'll release hostages if gov't agrees to talks,” Haaretz, Nov. 27, 2008 http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1041535.html

[8] “India sees 'external links' in Mumbai attacks which killed 104,” Haaretz, Nov. 27, 2008, http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1041308.html

[9] “Jewish centre seized in Mumbai,” BBC, Nov. 27, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7752057.stm; “'Eight Israelis held by terrorists in Mumbai Chabad House'” The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 27, 2008, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1227702336066&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

[10] “About Chabad,” Web site of Chabad.org, Accessed Nov. 27, 2008, from http://www.chabad.org/global/about/article_cdo/aid/36226/jewish/Overview.htm

[11] “India – Israel Bilateral Trade and Economic Relations,” Israel Ministry of Industry Trade and Labor. Accessed Nov. 27, 2008, from http://www.tamas.gov.il/NR/exeres/4B0C4DCC-EDC0-45EB-AC60-E449C9EA26FA.htm

[12] “Indian PM vows action on attacks,” BBC, Nov. 26, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7751707.stm; “PM says attacks plotted by overseas groups,” Reuters, Nov. 27, 2008, http://in.reuters.com/article/businessNews/idINIndia-36737120081127; “Indian PM vows action on attacks,” BBC, Nov. 27, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7752003.stm

[13] “India sees 'external links' in Mumbai attacks which killed 104,” Haaretz, Nov. 27, 2008, http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1041308.html

[14] “PM says attacks plotted by overseas groups,” Reuters, Nov. 27, 2008, http://in.reuters.com/article/businessNews/idINIndia-36737120081127; “Indian PM vows action on attacks,” BBC, Nov. 27, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7752003.stm

The Israel Project is an international non-profit organization devoted to educating the press and the public about Israel while promoting security, freedom and peace. The Israel Project provides journalists, leaders and opinion-makers accurate information about Israel. The Israel Project is not related to any government or government agency.

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