A mob of Palestinians tonight murdered a Jewish Israeli man in a police uniform after he opened fire on a bus and killed four Arabs, allegedly in protest of the Gaza withdrawal plan.
Police here are calling the incident a “Jewish terror attack” and are on high alert for Palestinian revenge attacks, warning of a likely immediate deterioration in Israel’s security situation.
Eden Natan Zada, 19, committed a shooting attack on a public Israeli bus in the northern Arab town of Shfaram, killing at least four and wounding more than 12 others, some seriously. Zada also was killed in an assault by a mob of angry bystanders and witnesses.
According to several witness accounts, Israeli police had arrived before the mob accosted Zada but were unable to secure the scene.
Zaada, from the town of Tapuach in Judea and Samaria, was an Israeli Defense Forces soldier recently sentenced to jail time for refusing orders related to the Aug. 17 evacuation of Jewish communities in Gaza and parts of Samaria. He went missing 77 days ago, still in possession of his army-issued gun. During his military career, Zada reportedly served time in prison on two occasions.
Zada’s hometown of Tapuach is well-known for its high-profile activist residents, most of whom are former members of the Kahane-Chai movement and its various off-shoots. Rabbi Meir Kahane, assassinated in New York in 1990, was founder of the Jewish Defense League. Kach and Kahane Chai, the Israeli branches of his organization, were outlawed in 1994 following statements in support of Baruch Goldstein, a Kach member who carried out a shooting attack against Arabs at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
Yekutial Ben Yaacov, a former Kahane leader and founder of the Jewish Legion in Kfar Tapuach, was a friend of Zada. He told WND he blamed tonight’s attack on the Gaza withdrawal.
“Zada is the first casualty of the sadistic Gaza plan. He tried with all his heart and soul to convince the authorities not to draft him at this time so he wouldn’t have to play a role in the disengagement. Had he not been enlisted, had they not forced him to be scheduled to uproot Jews, there wouldn’t be any deaths.”
Ben Yaacov said Zada was “a humble and very shy Jew. The disengagement really broke him.”
Security sources said they had not received advanced warnings of any Jewish terror attack.
A senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity told WND, “We had been tracking Zada for quite some time. He was familiar to us for his extremist views. We keep a very close eye on Tapuach.”
Zada opened fire on Israeli bus number 165, known to transport Arab Israeli citizens. About 50 percent of Shfaram’s residents are Muslims. The rest are mostly Druze and Christians.
Avtihaj Salameh, who was on the bus during the shooting, told reporters Zada entered the vehicle dressed in a police uniform and went near the back. She said the bus driver asked Zada to approach him to inquire whether the man had made a mistake and boarded the wrong bus.
Zada stood at the front of the moving bus with the driver for a few minutes, Salameh said, and after Salameh rang a bell signaling she wanted to get off at the next stop, Zada opened fire. The shooting continued for nearly five minutes, until youths arrived and gained control of the gunmen.
The shooting came just hours after Palestinians in Gaza celebrated the pullout – less than two weeks before the withdrawal is due to begin. It highlighted fears about possible violence while the withdrawal is being carried out.
Police watch Arab mob lynch?
As the shooting was coming to an end, witnesses said a large mob of Arabs approached the bus and attacked and killed Zada. According to nearby Shfaram residents, after Zada finished firing a round of bullets and reached for a second ammunition magazine, the mob bombarded the shooter.
Police officers reportedly were on the scene before the mob attacked Zada but did not approach the bus for fear Arabs were about to set fire to it.
A crowd of thousands then reportedly gathered around the site of the attack and surrounded the bus, with Zada’s body still inside.
Family, friends blame Gaza evacuation
Police sources said Zada left behind a letter at his former army base saying, “A Jew does not expel a Jew.”
He also left other anti-Gaza withdrawal slogans and paraphernalia, including an orange anti-withdrawal T-shirt.
It was unclear when the letter and objects were placed at the base, but it likely happened several months ago.
One friend of Zada’s from Tapuach, who asked that his name be withheld for fear “that I will be tracked by [Israel’s] Shin Bet [Security Services],” told WND, “Eden was a quiet kid. Withdrawn. But very nice. We certainly were in shock when we heard what happened. But when [the Israeli Defense Forces] made him serve and then sent him to jail for refusing, something in him changed.”
Ben Yaacov said, “[Zada] was a tormented soul. The Gaza disengagement did this to him.”
Zada’s mother, Debbie, told Israel’s Ynet news service she blamed the IDF for her son’s actions and death.
“When we informed [the army] that Eden went AWOL, they told us they’ll treat him as a missing person only after 45 days. Where was the army all this time? They can go to hell,” Debbie said.
Police fear riots, revenge attacks
Police are on high alert throughout Israel for Arab riots and revenge attacks, including suicide bombings.
Thousands of officers are reportedly being deployed in the villages in and around the site of tonight’s attack gearing up for expected Israeli-Arab and Palestinian riots. Officials are warning of possible incitement during Muslim sermons tomorrow calling for protesters to take to the streets.
“All of hell is about to break lose,” a security official in Gaza told WND. “There are going to be terror attacks, riots. And we’ll pay the price in Gaza with Hamas increasing their rocket and shooting attacks in the next few days against [Jewish communities here].”
Some police officials were comparing tonight’s events to October 2000 clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians that led to 13 Arab deaths. Those clashes, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit thereafter to the Temple Mount, were cited by Palestinian terrorists as triggers for the outbreak of the intifada terror war in 2000.
Attack widely condemned
Sharon tonight called the attack “a sinful act by a bloodthirsty terrorist. This terror incident is a deliberate attempt to harm the relations between the citizens of Israel. Terror between civilians is the most dangerous thing for the future of Israel and its democratic stability.”
Jewish Agency chief Zeev Bielski said he wished to express on behalf of worldwide Jewish communities his shock at the deadly attack.
“Anyone who commits such an act cannot be considered to be Jewish,” Bielski said in a letter to Shfaram’s mayor.
Yesha council chairman Bentzi Lieberman, who led this week’s anti-Gaza withdrawal protest and march, denounced the attack as the work of a “madman.”
Israeli Arab Knesset Member Mohammed Barakei blamed the attack on “Jewish incitement.”
“The writing was on the wall and such an incident was bound to happen,” Barakei said. “It was caused by the constant incitement against the Right by government officials and racists who have called Israeli Arabs a fifth column and worse names. The anger of the people of Shfaram is understandable and I hope it isn’t channeled in a destructive way.”
More anti-withdrawal attacks to come?
Ben Yaacov warned, “I am urging Sharon not to continue to force our soldiers to take part in the disengagement. It is ripping soldiers apart. It is traumatic to have to take part in military operations against fellow Jews. There could be other individuals who act with rifles.”
Editor’s note: “ISRAEL BETRAYED?” – the July issue of WND’s acclaimed monthly Whistleblower magazine – is devoted entirely to an in-depth exploration of the controversial forced removal of thousands of Jewish residents from Gaza and the likely creation of a Hamas-run terror state many believe will follow. Read more about “ISRAEL BETRAYED?”