AMSTERDAM (JTA) — The man whom Dutch police released hours after he attacked a kosher restaurant while waving a Palestinian flag reportedly is a Damascus-born ex-combatant in Syria’s civil war.
GeenStijl reported Wednesday that the perpetrator of the Dec. 7 assault in southern Amsterdam is Saleh Ali, who has said that he participated in the war fighting against the Islamic State terrorist group, according to information obtained by the news site.
Police knew this information when they released him several hours after two officers arrested him outside the restaurant, the report said. The officers and passers-by looked on as the perpetrator smashed several windows with a bat while staffers were inside. He then broke in, removed an Israeli flag and exited before the officers overpowered him.
The incident happened one day after President Donald Trump signed a document recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Two Jewish buildings in Sweden, including a synagogue, were targeted by arsonists using firebombs, the local police said. Demonstrations featuring chants about killing Jews were held in the days that followed in The Hague, Vienna, Berlin and London. Calls glorifying Palestinian terrorists were heard at a rally Saturday in Paris.
The perpetrator of the restaurant attack, whose lawyer has denied that his client acted out of any anti-Semitic motives, was charged with vandalism and theft, according to De Telegraaf, with no mention in that paper’s reporting of an aggravated element of a hate crime. Thus he was released shortly after his arrest.
A spokesman for the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, a Hague-based watchdog on anti-Semitism, wrote on Facebook that it was “shocking” that the perpetrator was released in light of the information reported by GeenStijl.
The center, or CIDI, has called for the perpetrator, who is on a temporary staying permit, to be tried on hate crime charges.