Eli mourned as major terror cell exposed
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Eli mourned as major terror cell exposed

Mourners grieve at Eli Kay's funeral in Jerusalem.Photo: AP Photo/Oded Balilty
Mourners grieve at Eli Kay's funeral in Jerusalem. Photo: AP Photo/Oded Balilty

THOUSANDS of mourners attended the funeral of Eli David Kay this week after the 26-year-old oleh from South Africa, who was employed at the Western Wall as a tour guide, was shot dead by a Hamas terrorist in the Old City.

“My great-grandfather Eliyahu is waiting for him [in heaven], King David is waiting for him, and they’ll take care of him,” Kay’s brother Kasriel said, invoking his sibling’s namesakes.

Among those who attended the funeral at Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuchot Cemetery were Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, Culture Minister Chili Tropper and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau.

“Eli’s story is the story of Israel at its best,” said Shai, hailing the former IDF paratrooper as “the best of the best”.

“Israel thanks you today,” he continued, adding that “Israel promises to fight terror every day, every hour”.

Kasriel said he wouldn’t eulogise his brother, due to his Chabad Chassidic tradition. Instead, he urged the crowd of mourners to change their lives for the better in his memory.

“There’s no reason to be sad for him … He will be at peace,” said Kasriel, recalling that his brother had survived combat in the Gaza Strip.

“When the Holy One wants a person, he takes him. Eli would have [chosen] no other way [to die], either this or in the middle of the war.

“Eli would have wanted every single person to give … to the best of their ability, in whatever way works for them for Israel.”

Eli’s father Avi told Channel 12 news, “Eli was just a maverick. He was an amazing kid. From when he was very young, he was different, he was energetic, he had his own mind, he was super bright. And he simply lived his life with energy, doing what he felt was correct, always guided by his moral conviction and his moral compass.

“He was a great musician, enjoyed music, enjoyed partying, enjoyed his friends. Then he went to yeshiva and excelled. And then he decided he was going to the army, but he knew exactly where he was going to go [to do his service]…

“This is the way Hashem chose for him to go – in the place that he loved, in the city that he loved. And, who knows, maybe because of him, many, many other people are here today.”

Referring to Kay and his family, who followed him in moving to Israel, Chief Rabbi Lau said the murderer and those behind him had struck “a dear soul and wounded dear people”.

Kay had been walking to work when the terrorist, East Jerusalem resident Fadi Abu Shkhaydam – a Hamas activist – opened fire and fatally wounded him.

Kay was the first Israeli civilian killed by Palestinian violence since the 11-day conflict in the Gaza Strip in May.

Four other people were wounded in Sunday’s shooting before officers shot and killed Abu Shkhaydam.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was the “price” for Israel’s actions in Jerusalem.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, meanwhile, demanded that Turkey shut down the offices of the terror group after Israel announced the arrests of a sophisticated West Bank Hamas cell being directed from Istanbul.

“We must prevent these heinous acts of terrorism against Israeli citizens everywhere and under any conditions,” Lapid said on Monday, urging other nations to follow the example of the UK, which announced last week that it intended to ban Hamas in its entirety and stop differentiating between its political and military wings.

According to the Shin Bet, more than 50 Hamas operatives were arrested across the West Bank for suspected involvement in the cell and large quantities of weaponry was seized, including the materials needed to make at least four explosive belts for suicide attacks. An undisclosed amount of money that was allegedly used by the cell was also seized in the raids.

“This was a major preventative effort that thwarted dangerous terrorist infrastructure, which was planning serious attacks. The goal of the terrorist activities, which were undertaken by Hamas operatives abroad and in Gaza with operatives in the West Bank, was to destabilise the region, while exacting a heavy price from local residents,” a senior Shin Bet officer said.

Haaretz reported that officials were disturbed by the cell’s level of complexity, both in terms of its plans and the arms it had at its disposal.

They also highlighted that these were the first concrete plans to carry out a suicide bombing inside Israel discovered in the past five years.

The security agency claimed the cell was led from Turkey by Saleh al-Arouri, deputy head of the terror group’s politburo, and Zacharia Najib, a member of the organisation who was released from Israeli prison in the 2011 Gilad Shalit exchange, where they allegedly continue to operate on behalf of Hamas.

Both al-Arouri and Najib live in Turkey, which has long had a close relationship with Hamas and which is politically linked to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Given the links to Turkey, Israel reportedly held off announcing the arrests, originally planned for 10 days ago, until it secured the release of Israeli couple Mordy and Natali Oknin, who were being held in the country on spying charges.

The Oknins, bus drivers from the central city of Modiin, were released last week after being held for eight days for suspected espionage after photographing Erdogan’s palace.

Following their return to Israel, the government specifically thanked Erdogan for his role in setting them free and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog both held calls with the Turkish leader.

The Kan broadcaster said that Israel had delayed reporting on the arrests, which began with a round of raids in September, for fear of embarrassing Erdogan and hampering efforts to free the Oknins.

Reporting that Abu Shkhaydam had travelled to Turkey several times in recent months and met with senior Hamas officials there, Kan quoted security officials saying they believed that he had received his instructions for the attack there.

However, family members interrogated by the Shin Bet denied this, saying he was visiting his son who is a student in Turkey and to deal with a property he owned there.

A number of Abu Shkhaydam’s relatives were reportedly taken in for questioning following the attack, including his wife who had been in Jordan at the time and returned to Israel on Monday. Despite reports that she had fled there ahead of the attack, her lawyer insisted she had been in Jordan visiting her terminally-ill mother.

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