IDF helicopters continued throughout the night to survey the area of last night's lethal Palestinian terror attack that left three IDF soldiers dead and a fourth one seriously wounded.
The attack began when four soldiers were on a routine patrol in the hostile Arab village of Ein Yabrud, northeast of Ramallah, across the highway from the Yesha community of Ofrah - the oldest in Binyamin. The killers, hiding behind a low wall, opened fire on the four, and then approached them to perform what is known as "ascertainment of death," shooting them at point-blank range. The fourth soldier, hidden behind some bushes, managed to escape this procedure, and remained alive to be operated on for 15 hours in Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. He is now listed in moderate-to-serious condition.
The names of the dead IDF soldiers: Sgt. Erez Idan, 20, of Rishon LeTzion; Sgt. Ro'i Yaakov Solomon, 21, of Tel Aviv; and Sgt. Elad Pollack, 19, of Kiryat Motzkin. Pollack was buried this afternoon in Tzur Shalom, north of the "Krayot" cities in the Haifa region, while at the same time Erez Idan was being laid to rest in Holon. Solomon will be buried tomorrow in Holon.
Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, IDF Commander of the Central Region, felt constrained to explain the importance of the mission the soldiers were carrying out when they were attacked. He said that in a similar patrol just yesterday in the Menashe region, IDF forces were able to catch two suicide terrorists with explosives vests of ten kilograms each. "It's clear to all of us that that operation prevented a heavy catastrophe," Kaplinsky said. "Despite the difficult feelings we now have, we must continue our fight against terrorism and those who stand behind it, until we win."
The fallen Elad Pollack, who overcame strong odds in order to serve in a combat unit, was stationed in Yesha (Judea and Samaria) for the past six months. "It never bothered him when he had to return to the army on Sunday mornings," a relative said last night. "He knew that he was doing there what had to be done, and that what he was doing was the right and good thing for the State of Israel."
Immediately after reports of the attack began to arrive, a Magen David Adom ambulance was dispatched from Ofrah, as was a military ambulance with a physician on board. The medical teams were unable to resuscitate the three, who were pronounced dead on the scene. The fourth victim was transported in the Ofrah ambulance to the trauma unit of Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem.
IDF forces began immediately afterwards combing and searching the area for the killers, who apparently escaped in a red car, and continued throughout the night. The car was found abandoned nearby. Fatah's Al-Aksa Brigades, reporting directly to Yasser Arafat, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The site of the Arab terror attack is the same location where Ofrah resident Assaf Hershkovitz was murdered on May 1, 2001, between Ofrah and the junction to Beit El. The junction, now home to a small Jewish community, is named Givat [Hill] Assaf in his memory.
Pinchas Wallerstein, long-time head of the Binyamin Regional Council, arrived on the scene last night and called upon the government to implement its decision to either kill or deport Arafat. "Arafat has spilled enough Jewish blood to deserve the death penalty," Wallerstein said. "It would be ethical, just, and necessary for our war against terror." Prime Minister Sharon recently admitted that implementing the decision to "remove" Arafat is not realistic for the foreseeable future.