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Father of Israeli American girl killed in suicide bombing urges Biden to seek justice

Sbarro pizzeria, Jerusalem
Israeli medics and volunteers treat the injured at the site of a Palestinian suicide bombing on August 9, 2001, in Jerusalem, Israel. At least 18 people, including six children, were killed in the explosion, and more than 80 others were injured in the blast at a Sbarro pizzeria. The bombing occurred at lunchtime at the busy intersection of Jaffa and St. George's streets in the heart of downtown Jerusalem. (Photo by Getty Images) |

The parents of a 15-year-old Israeli American girl killed in a Jerusalem suicide bombing have been trying to communicate with the United States government for years to convince Jordan to extradite a woman charged with organizing the attack and force her to stand trial in the U.S. 

Arnold Roth's daughter, Malki, died in an attack at Jerusalem's Sbarro pizzeria on Aug. 9, 2001, which left 15 dead and 130 more people injured.

In an interview with The Christian Post, Roth said that the woman who planned the attack, Jordanian national Ahlam Tamimi, had targeted a location where she knew there would be Jewish children. The suicide attack was ultimately carried out by Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri.

"So that massacre was really the end of the innocent part of our lives," he told CP. 

"Not everyone who has children understands what it's like to lose a child. And people that don't have children often don't really grasp the intensity of it." 

Although Tamimi was convicted by an Israeli military tribunal and received multiple life sentences, she was released in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange. 

Earlier this month, Roth and his wife wrote a letter to President Joe Biden, asking him to demand Jordan extradite to Tamimi and to meet with them when he visited Jerusalem. The letter was sent to Biden through the U.S. Embassy. 

"Something is obviously terribly wrong with how the pursuit of America's most wanted female fugitive is going," the Roths wrote in their letter. 

"We want to explain this to you better in a face-to-face meeting," they added. "We want you to look us in the eyes, Mr. President, and tell us how Jordan's king can be a praiseworthy ally."

Roth claims he has not had any contact with Biden or Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The father says that he has been working to see Tamimi extradited to the U.S. since she was released over a decade ago. 

As CNN reported, Israel agreed in October 2011 to free over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom were convicted of attacking Israelis, in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit whom Hamas had captured. 

After she was released, Tamimi began making speeches and launched a television show called "Breezes of the Free," a program for Arabic-speaking audiences that endorsed terrorism, according to Roth. 

The father said that this was the "last straw in a series of last straws." 

Roth and his wife agreed that he should go to Washington. He made an appointment with the Department of Justice and FBI. While there, he gave a presentation on the issue in front of 20 senior officials. 

"And the upshot of it was that I got an assurance that, quote, 'If we can, we'll go after her,'" he said. 

Roth and his family did not hear anything for the next five years until, in March 2017, the Americans began negotiating with Jordanians to extradite Tamimi. While the Trump administration claimed two years ago that it would withhold aid to Jordan if they did not extradite Tamimi, no action appears to have been taken. 

The father believes this is because Jordan is one of the U.S.' foreign allies, and there is hesitation about alienating a strategic partner. He noted that Tamimi is a relatively high-profile figure, considered a "hero" by some Jordanians, making the country's leaders afraid to possibly shake things up by extraditing her. 

"Jordan is the tail that's wagging the dog. They have no power," Roth said. "They will not exist for a minute without American support. And you're trying to tell us that you can't take this woman and put her on trial in Washington because Jordan wouldn't allow it?"

Throughout the past 20 years, Roth and his wife have run a nonprofit in their daughter's name. 

The charity is named after Malki, which Roth says was intended to preserve the good in his daughter's life for others to know about. It also comes from Malki's interactions with her disabled little sister, who is blind and brain damaged, whom Malki reportedly doted on. 

The Malki Foundation has locations in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia and Israel. The foundation receives a small amount of money from the Israeli government, but Roth said that the "bulk" of the support comes from ordinary people. 

The foundation helps the parents of children with disabilities provide at-home care for their children instead of placing them in an institution. The nonprofit assists them with ensuring these parents have the necessary equipment and home therapies. 

"We knew we had to do something to memorialize her life," he said. 

"So it was clear that we wanted to do for other people what Malki did, her own sister, and that's that's been the moral throughout all these years." 

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