A village guard shot and killed an intruder early on Tuesday morning in what may become a test of the right to self-defense. The incident took place in Kfar Ben-Nun, near Latrun.

The intruder was later identified as Hussein el-Atrash, a Palestinian Authority Arab who police say headed the largest car theft ring operating in Israel. Atrash's gang “terrorized the region,” one officer explained.

The incident began when Atrash and two other thieves entered Kfar Ben-Nun and stole a car. A local guard spotted the group, and gave pursuit.

According to the guard, the thieves drove down a dead-end lane. When they realized their mistake, they exited the car and began running at him. He fired in self-defense, killing Atrash.

The other two suspects fled the scene, and have not yet been caught.

The guard, who is also a volunteer with the Border Police, was taken in for questioning. Police are investigating the incident to determine whether the shooting was justified.

The case is reminiscent of the Shai Dromi affair, in which Negev farmer Shai Dromi was arrested and jailed for months after shooting and killing a Bedouin man who, along with other would-be thieves, invaded his property in the middle of the night. The case led to the creation of the Dromi Law, which guarantees the right to lethal self defense in case of a home invasion.

Police: Not Like Thieves of Old

Police officers who spoke to Maariv reported that the gang led by Atrash had terrorized many Israeli communities. “These aren't the same kind of criminals that were around 40 years ago,” said Commander Amitai Levi. “Today they are more violent, bolder. The gang he led caused terror in this region. They stole jeeps, broke into houses, stole cars, and committed robberies.”

Police gave their backing to the guard who opened fire on Atrash and his thieves. “He acted with determination, and did what we would expect to see from any officer in that kind of situation,” one said.