The three dead are: Oz Yisrael Ben Meir, 14, from Moshav Maon; newlywed Matat Rosenfeld Adler, 21, from Carmel; and Kinneret Mandel, 23, from Carmel.
The terrorists stopped their car at the hitchhike stand and waited for more people to amass. No one suspected them. According to an eye-witness, when there were about 15 people, mostly students, standing there, "I saw the terrorist take out his gun and took cover. A split second later, he sprayed bullets and whoever was standing up got hit."
The car fled south to the Arab village of El-Aroub, minutes away. Backpacks were strewn with victims’ blood at the intersection where the attack occurred.
Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, told reporters, "A Palestinian passed by in a car, let off a burst of fire, and struck down people standing at the hitchhiking post."
Goldstein told Israel TV that since the Oslo war broke out in September, 2000, many Jews were murdered in the area , but the army gradually gained control of the situation by closing down side Arab-traveled roads adjacent to the main highway. There was a drastic reduction in attacks.
"But then," said Goldstein, "the political echelons propose confidence-building concessions, which are always made by Israelis to the Arabs, and opened the side roads. We begged them to refrain from this measure, and warned that the roads will again be used as escape routes following murders of Jews. Today's murders are the result of this policy."
The Al Aksa Brigades, a terror group associated with the Fatah PLO faction claimed responsibility for the attack. PA chief Mahmoud Abbas is a member of the Fatah party that controls the Palestinian Authority.
Shortly after the attack in Gush Etzion, Arab terrorists driving a Hyundai opened fire on Jewish pedestrians walking on the highway between Eli and Shiloh in Samaria, north of Jerusalem. One person, wounded in his upper leg, was evacuated to the hospital.
Two vehicles were also hit in the Gush Etzion attack. The Arabs, who were driving a Subaru, have not been apprehended.
David Baker, an official from the prime minister's office, accused the Arabs of exploiting "humanitarian gestures," including the removal of roadblocks, which Israel recently made toward the Arab population in Judea and Samaria. The gestures were made ahead of a summit that was supposed to have taken place between PA chief Mahmoud Abbas, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The meeting was called by Abbas when he accused Israel of not making enough significant concessions to the PA.
The IDF removed the roadblocks from roads like Route 60 where both of the attacks took place, despite the warnings of many in the security establishment that after Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, PA terrorists would intensify their war in Judea and Samaria.
Among Abbas' demands for the summit were for Israel to approve arming the PA with more rifles and armored personnel carriers. Senior IDF officials reportedly were in favor of approving Abbas' demand. Abbas also demanded that IDF troops withdraw from Ramallah and Shechem, opening the way for PA forces to control these Arab-populated cities, much in the same way that the PA controls, Jericho, Bethlehem, and Tulkarem in Judea and Samaria.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz recently authorized PA troops in Tulkarem (located on the coastal plain near the suburbs of Tel Aviv), to rearm and openly display their weapons in the streets.
In another gesture recently approved to improve relations with the Palestinian Authority, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.Gen. Dan Halutz, ordered the IDF to halt targeting members of the Al Aksa Brigades. Halutz recently told a French newspaper that Israel had halted the attacks because the Brigades, who perpetrated today's murders, had linked up with offical PA forces and were no longer targeting Israelis.
Susie Dym, spokesperson for Mattot Arim, an Israeli grassroots organization working toward peace-for-peace, decried the "predictable pattern of death:"
"Each and every time this road-opening step takes place, the result is a fatal road attack. For example, the terror attack 4 months ago resulting in the death of two teenagers at Bet Haggai, happened under exactly the same circumstances."
"All commanders in the IDF are aware of the fact that opening roads serving Israelis to Arab traffic, will eventually lead to a fatal road attack. When Israeli residents in Judea and Samaria repeatedly raise this point with IDF commanders, the commanders never make any attempt to deny the undeniable."
Dym distributes an email list with activist alerts at firstname.lastname@example.org