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October Today in Terrorism

October 5, 1985: Children killed in Egyptian mass shooting

On October 5, 1985 an Egyptian soldier named Suleiman Khater gunned down seven Israelis: three adults and four young children.

RAS BURQA, EGYPT – People may hold to highly constructed ideals to help them decide how to act: how does the killing of women and children fit into this?

Whichever terrorist or terrorist group you encounter you will hear them profess a higher calling. I/we are doing this for ______ (God, Allah, Jehovah…fill the blank with you deity of choice). I/we are doing this to make society better. I/we are doing this to right historical wrongs. The list is endless.

That these people really believe in what they claim is beyond doubt I would imagine. We may not agree with their ‘rationales‘ but that does not make them any less meaningful to them. The world is, after all, made up of all kinds of people with all kinds of ideas.

Still, there must be a shared acceptance that certain segments of the population are out of bounds when it comes to these actions. Women and children top that list in my opinion. Who would disagree with that view?

What in heaven’s name do I have to with all this? (Photo: David Masters on flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Alas, there are all kinds of incidents where this segment of society does suffer in attacks. Sometimes accidentally, Sometimes deliberately.

On this day in 1985

An Egyptian soldier named Suleiman Khater gunned down seven Israelis: three adults and four young children. An eighth victim survived only because her mother shielded her with her body. The attack took place near Ras Burqa, in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The gunman also killed an Egyptian policeman who tried to intervene.

There were reports that nearby Egyptian security forces refused to help the wounded and even stopped an Israeli doctor and other tourists at gunpoint from administering any aid to the victims of the shooting, leaving the wounded Israelis to bleed to death. Khater later committed suicide (or did he?) in an Egyptian prison. He was lionised by some of his fellow countrymen and Iran issued a stamp in honour of his ‘martyrdom‘, even naming a street in Tehran after him.

For many years, I didn’t think about what happened. I just blocked out everything and then slowly, slowly I sort of regained feeling. I remember as the shooting started, my mother grabbed me and lay down, putting me under her. She whispered to me, keeping me calm. I can still recall the feeling of the jolt as she got shot. Yet, she continued to hold me and talk to me as she bled to death. When I crawled out, I sat there alone for a very long time. The Egyptian police came and took me away to a dark room where they interrogated me for hours.

5-year old Tali Griffel

Whatever Khater’s motivation – the Egyptian government said he was mentally ill – he deliberately machine gunned four children to death. Would anyone care to convince me that this is heroic?

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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