Daily Israel Report

IDF, GSS, Police React to Shfaram Attack

The IDF and the GSS have launched investigations into events surrounding Thursday evening's shooting attack by an Israeli Jew on Arabs in the town of Shfaram. Police have been put on high alert.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 8/21/2005, 9:02 AM / Last Update: 8/5/2005, 11:49 AM

Murdered in the shooting attack on board an Egged no. 165 bus were Michel Bahus, 56, the bus driver, Nader Hayak, 55, Hazar Turki, 23, and her sister Dina, 21, all residents of Shfaram. Magen David Adom emergency medical service officials reported on Thursday night that a total of 17 persons were transported to Rambam Medical Center and Bnei Tzion Hospital.

IDF Major-General Yiftach Ron-Tal has appointed a colonel to head an investigation into the circumstances leading to the fatal attack. The parents of the murderer, IDF Pvt. Eden Natan-Zada, are pointing an accusing finger at the military, telling the media they called military authorities requesting their son's weapon be taken away from him due to his emotional state. Speaking from her Rishon L'Tzion home, Eden's mother told the media hours following the attack that no one took her words seriously and as a result, the weapon was used to murder innocent people on board the bus traveling from Haifa to Shfaram.

[Addendum: Conversations with Pvt. Natan-Zada's father clarified that his family's concern, as expressed to the military, was that Eden's weapon not fall into the hands of Arab terrorists; not that his son would use the rifle to attack Arabs. - NRK]

Family members and friends of Natan-Zada told reporters on Thursday night that he did everything possible to persuade IDF authorities that he was unfit for military service. Citing his new Orthodox lifestyle and adamant opposition to the government's Disengagement Plan, Eden explained he was unable to serve in an "organization" that uproots Jews from their homes. Despite his adamant and sincere efforts to impress IDF induction officials with his internal dilemma, he was inducted and assigned to Disengagement-related duties, after which he went absent without leave.

The IDF's Chief of Personnel, Major-General Elazar Stern, is calling for a funeral without honor for 19-year-old Natan-Zada. Stern stated that it does not matter if the AWOL soldier has a military or civilian funeral, but it must be conducted without any form of honor following his despicable act.

The weekly Jerusalem reported on Friday that two days prior to Natan-Zada's attack, the army engaged in training simulations of a possible terror attack by Jews against Arabs. The report states that the army conducted the training session in the Hevron area, using Kiryat Arba residents who volunteered to assist. Once they learned what the tone of the training event was, however, the volunteers bowed out, stating they viewed the training scenario as "political" and "related to the Disengagement."

The General Security Services (GSS), Israel's internal secret service, also swung into action in the aftermath of the Shfaram attack. Not long after the identity of the attacker became known, GSS agents began a search of homes in Tapuach, a town where Natan-Zada had been a periodic visitor. Three juveniles were taken into custody during the search. Community spokespeople released a statement that they did not know where Eden Natan-Zada was nor what he was planning.

Concerned over possible Arab violence in the wake of the Shfaram shooting, local authorities have moved into high alert, with police calling in reinforcements in several sensitive areas. Police have set age and other restrictions on Islamic worshippers attending Friday prayer services on the Temple Mount, barring anyone under the age of forty. Other measures have been taken, police officials report, in the hope of averting violence. The Prison Authority has also raised the alert level, sensitive to what may happen where both Arab and Jewish criminals are imprisoned together.

Police will also have to report on the circumstances leading to the lynching death of Natan-Zada following his attack. After the shooting, responding police officers removed people from the bus and tried to protect the vehicle from hundreds of angry Arab residents. Five officers were injured as the mob pelted them with stones and bottles. Several people got past police, but it was not clear whether the shooter was killed following this failed police intervention or whether he was beaten to death before police arrived.