Terror Attack Kills One, Attack on Hospital Prevented

An Israeli driver in his 20's was killed this morning in a roadside shooting attack in northwestern Shomron. Yesha Council: The attack marks the beginning of "retreat under fire."

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, | updated: 10:41

One of the bullets shot at the car hit and ignited the gas tank, setting the car ablaze. The driver - Yvegeny Reider, 27 - who had already been seriously wounded, managed to drive the car out of the range of the attackers, towards an army checkpoint only a few hundred meters away. Medics treated the driver on the spot, but were unable to save his life. A teen-aged male passenger sustained light-to-moderate wounds, and was operated on in a nearby hospital. Security forces quickly began combing the area in an attempt to apprehend the murderers.

While funeral plans were being made for Reider, Israelis were informed that one of the humanitarian gestures that the Bush Administration has been pressuring Israel to make on behalf of the Palestinian Authority nearly cost them a massive terrorist attack. A bomb-laden female terrorist, who had been being treated at an Israeli hospital, was arrested at the Erez Checkpoint today.

The woman has been receiving treatment at Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva. Either before or after the treatments began, she was recruited by a local Palestinian terrorist organization to take advantage of the Israeli hospitality and generosity and carry out a suicide attack. It is not clear whether the attack was to take place inside the hospital or elsewhere.

The area of this morning's murderous attack is set to become a secluded Jewish enclave in northwestern Shomron if Prime Minister Sharon's disengagement plan goes through. The plan calls for the abandonment of the Israeli presence in northern Shomron (Ganim and Kadim), as well as the forfeit of Israel's only towns in western Shomron (Sa-Nur and Chomesh), leaving the area of Chermesh and Mevo Dotan, in northwestern Shomron, isolated and vulnerable.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said that the attack is another proof that Abu Mazen and the PA leadership must stop their attempts to integrate Hamas in the PA leadership.

Today's attack was perpetrated by Islamic Jihad, while yesterday's mortar shell killing of soldier Avi Karuchi in southern Gaza was a joint Hamas-Fatah attack.

Shomron Regional Council leader Bentzy Lieberman said that the murder is "part of the terror wave that stems from the weakness transmitted by the government of Israel in its uprooting and expulsion plan, which is based on groundless and meaningless promises from Abu Mazen."

"Retreating from the northern Shomron will increase terrorism," Lieberman said, "and will bring it closer to Netanya, Hadera and Afula. The disengagement plan must be stopped. We must re-think the situation."

Members of the Yesha Council said that today's attack marks the beginning of the implementation of the withdrawal under fire - something that Prime Minister Sharon and other government figures have vowed would not occur.

Sharon clarified today that he meant that the "fire" would not occur, but that the "withdrawal" would.

Military experts have said that Israel's abandonment of the area would carry in its wake a dangerous threat to much of central Israel. Jenin and Shechem are expected to become cities of refuge for terrorists, and terrorist elements have already begun amassing Kassam rockets to fire at Israeli towns and cities bordering the area. Hizbullah has built a foundation of terrorism in this area of late, mainly with the Islamic Jihad, but has not scored much "success" due to the IDF activities in the area. With the departure of the IDF - if it occurs - Hizbullah and the Islamic Jihad are expected to increase their terror activities.

Terrorist activity is currently dammed, for the most part, by IDF measures such as isolating villages, encircling areas, checkpoints, and nonstop local activity by the army and GSS. A senior officer said, "It's no coincidence that though there are explosives, labs, lathes and the know-how – there have not been Kassams in the Shomron. Our control doesn't allow the translation of these resources into rockets. But when Israel leaves, the situation will change, and it will just be a matter of time until the first Kassam lands. The Beit She'an and Gilboa communities will come within rocket range." The municipal leaders in these areas have already been warned of the dangers awaiting them.

The withdrawal is also expected to endanger Israel's water supply from the area. PA elements currently dig wells illegally and pump water from them. This activity is expected to intensify once Israel leaves – depleting and salinizing the water supply used for agriculture in the Gilboa region and possibly wiping out regional farming.

Roadside shooting attacks of the type that claimed the Chermesh victim's life this morning were a commonplace occurrence during much of the Oslo War. The Monday morning attack was the first in approximately a year in the Shomron; last June 29, Moshe Yochai, 63, of Ashdod, was found shot dead in a truck outside N'vei Tzuf. In northern Gaza, nine months ago, nursery school teacher Shulamit Batito from Nisanit was shot while jogging between Nisanit and Elei Sinai, and St.-Sgt. Victor Ariel, 20, a combat medic in the Shimshon unit was killed while trying to resuscitate her. Just over a year ago, Tali Hatuel and her four daughters, aged 11 and under, were murdered at point-blank range while driving out of Gush Katif, leaving husband and father David Hatuel without a family.

On Friday, Israel's Vice Premier Shimon Peres declared that it's not guns that pose a threat, but rather suicide bombers. Peres has proposed giving the Palestinian Authority thousands of guns as a goodwill gesture to Abu Mazen, and Prime Minister Sharon is set to consider this proposal later this week.