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Israeli 9-11 Terror Suspects Still Held

October 31, 2001

Among the hundreds of suspects being held in connection with the terror attacks of Sept. 11 are a number of Israelis who were seen rejoicing while photographing the burning World Trade Center.  Five Israelis, suspected of being co-conspirators in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, arrested in New Jersey with box-cutters, multiple passports, and $4,000 cash on Sept. 11, remain in detention and may be held for another 90 days as the criminal investigation continues. They are among the more than 1,000 suspects who are being held in connection with the attacks whose detention is shrouded in secrecy.

The five men were on the roof of a moving company and the rooftop of their moving van, taking pictures of the burning buildings, some with themselves in the foreground smiling. In each location, according to the Jerusalem Post, the men, described in press reports as rugged and Middle Eastern-looking, had been reported "cheering" and shouting in "cries of mockery," which evoked the ire of neighbors, who called the police to report suspicious activity.

The Israelis: Sivan Kurzberg, his brother Paul Kurzberg, Yaron Shmuel, Oded Ellner and Omer Gavriel Marmari, suspected of being intelligence agents with prior knowledge of the attacks, are all in their 20s and employees of an Israeli-owned moving company, Urban Moving Systems, based in New Jersey.

I spoke with a spokesman for the Israeli consulate in New York who said that "there have been more" Israelis detained in connection with the terror attacks, confirming press reports that numerous Israelis had been arrested, although he would not say how many. The spokesman said the five above-mentioned Israelis are being held in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn among the general population, although all had been held in solitary confinement until last week, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The mother of one of the detainees told the Israeli press that the suspects had been "tortured" during interrogation. However, the consular spokesman denied this, saying, "They haven't been tortured."

The Immigration and Naturalization Service has signed deportation orders for the five Israelis, but they can still be held for 90 days while the criminal investigation continues. The Israeli consul general in New York, Alon Pinkas, has visited the detainees several times, seeing them as recently as Oct. 29.

Katie Shmuel, the mother of Yaron, told the Israeli press, "He was allowed to talk to them only in English, and only from behind a glass partition. The consul told me that the boys are in a bad state and that they are being held under difficult conditions."  The mother says that the original reports that they had been arrested while boisterously watching the disaster from a rooftop "are totally fabricated."

"For the first few days, the boys were held in an FBI dungeon, tied up, with no clothes and no food," she said. "The Americans are using them as pawns to pressure the Israeli government."

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