Easing of Restrictions Led to Friday´s Terrorist Murders

Arab terrorists who murdered two teenaged yeshiva students - Avichai Levi and Aviad Mantzur - took advantage of the recent easing of army restrictions, an IDF officer said.

, | updated: 17:41

Avichai, 17 (pictured), was shot in the head on Friday afternoon and died on the spot. His friend, Aviad, lost much blood after being shot in both legs, and succumbed to his wounds this morning. The two were from the South Hevron Hills communities of Beit Haggai and Otniel, respectively, and were standing at the side of the road waiting for a ride when they were shot.

Three others were wounded in the attack.

IDF Hevron Battalion Commander Lt.-Col. Moti Baruch said he had no doubt that the easing of restrictions allowed the terrorists to reach the road bypassing Beit Haggai.

The terrorists are from Hevron, the industrial area of which is across the highway from Beit Haggai. The opening of the road to Arab traffic between these two points enabled the terrorists to perpetrate their attack, and then turn around and flee to safe haven back into the PA-controlled parts of Hevron.

The army reinstated the restrictions following the attack, and intelligence units are searching for the attackers.

Beit Haggai resident Ya'ir Lior, son of Hevron Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, said he warned the army last week that it had "opened the road for murderers." He said, "I told the army commanders this past Sunday that he was allowing too much Arab traffic in the region, and too many Arab murderers to travel freely, and that Jews are being endangered."

Lior said that Avichai was a youth movement leader, "full of life and humor," and his death is a "great loss for Beit Haggai."

Both Islamic Jihad and Hamas terrorists claimed they were involved in the attack. The IDF estimated that 2-4 attackers were in a white car that bypassed a group of four young hitchhikers near the entrance to Beit Haggai Friday around 4:45 p.m. The terrorists made a U-turn after realizing there were defenseless targets waiting for them.

They returned and opened fire just as a car from Beit Haggai stopped to pick up the youths. Witnesses reported that the shooting was "long and protracted," until the Israeli car was able to drive off towards the nearby army base of Adorayim.

Aviad Mantzur was flown in critical condition to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, where he remained unconscious until he died this morning. Another teenager, from Beit Haggai, is recovering from serious gun wounds. A fourth boy waiting with his frinds for a ride escaped unharmed. The couple who stopped to pick up the teenagers was lightly injured; both 23 years old, they were treated at Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva. Their toddler passenger was not hurt.

The funeral for Avichai Levi, a student at the Kiryat Arba Yeshiva High School, is scheduled to begin today (Sunday) at noon at Beit Haggai, leading to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. His parents have requested that those who attend the funeral wear orange, the color symbolizing opposition to the planned evacuation from the northern Samaria and Gaza regions. They said Avichai felt very close to the Gush Katif communities that the government plans to dismantle.

Southern Hevron Hills Regional Council Chairman Tzviki Bar-Chai said, "The terrorists observe very well the weakness of the government of Israel and the retreat from Gaza." He said the government policy will continue to encourage terrorists "until they chase us out of the entire State of Israel.”

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