Thirty years after two bombs exploded at prime Zionist and Jewish targets in Sydney, Australian police have reopened the longstanding cold case believed to have been perpetrated by a pro-Palestinian terror group.
On December 23, 1982, a bomb exploded inside the stairwell of the Israeli consulate, which was based inside Westfield Towers, the headquarters of Holocaust survivor Frank Lowy’s shopping mall empire.
Just under five hours later, another blast ripped through the car park underneath the Hakoah Club in Bondi, which reportedly had in excess of 200 people inside the social club.
Two people were injured at the consulate, one seriously. No one was killed at either venue, although police believe the Bondi bomb was intended to collapse the building. One man was charged but the case was later dropped due to lack of evidence.
At a media conference in Sydney on Sunday, counter-terror agents publicly launched ‘Operation Forbearance’ to track down the perpetrators of what would have been the worst antisemitic attack in Australian history.
“It was luck more than anything else that no one was killed in these bombings,” Assistant Commissioner Peter Dein said. “While it is almost 30 years ago, we know there are people out there living with the knowledge or guilt of these crimes.” He said detectives are now “applying new technologies and investigative practices to old crimes” and confirmed they are seeking several people in Sydney as well as overseas.
But he refused to confirm media reports that detectives had interrogated Jordanian-born Palestinian Mohammed Rashid, who is serving a seven-year sentence in Indiana for bombing a Pan Am flight in August 1982, killing one passenger. Rashid, who is scheduled to be released next March, is believed to have received the bomb from Husayn Muhammad al-Umari, a Jaffa-born Lebanese passport holder known as Abu Ibrahim or the “bomb man”.
Both were at the forefront of the May 15 organisation, a Baghdad-based offshoot of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Police said some evidence from the Sydney bombings pointed to a “direct link” to May 15.
Also known as the Abu-Ibrahim Faction, May 15 was founded in 1979 and claimed credit for the bombings of El Al offices in Rome and Istanbul, as well as attacks on Israeli embassies in Vienna and Athens.
Police also released two sketches of men they believe were involved in the bombing of the Hakoah Club, which no longer exists after it was sold recently to developers.