4 Israelis shot dead by Hamas terrorists in West Bank
By YAAKOV KATZ AND YAAKOV LAPPIN
Yitzhak Ames, Tali Ames, Kochava Ben-Haim and Avishai Schindler were all from Beit Hagai; Netanyahu tells security forces to act "without constraints against the murderers."
Four Israelis were killed Tuesday night in a shooting attack in the West Bank believed to have been aimed at torpedoing the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, set to kick off on Wednesday in Washington.
The four victims, described by a settler spokesman as a couple and two hitchhikers – were driving on Route 60 near the entrance to Kiryat Arba when their vehicle came under fire.
The victims were named as Yitzhak Ames, 47, and his wife Tali Ames, 45, Kochava Ben- Haim, 37, and Avishai Schindler, 24, all from Beit Hagai. The Ames couple had six children, including a oneand- a-half-year-old toddler.
Zaka volunteer Momy Ben- Haim was dispatched to the scene of the attack with his colleagues, when to his horror he discovered that his wife was among the dead.
“We saw a crying volunteer, and at first we did not understand what was happening – he has seen many disasters before,” Zaka volunteer Isaac Bernstein told The Jerusalem Post.
“Then he started shouting, ‘That’s my wife! That’s my wife!’ We took him away from the scene immediately,” Bernstein added.
Ben-Haim was taken to his home in Beit Hagai by his colleagues.
“When we arrived on the scene, all four doors of the car were open and four bodies were strewn on the road,” Magen David Adom paramedic Guy Ronen told The Jerusalem Post. “We saw that the vital organs had been struck by a very large number of bullets, and that there was no chance of saving their lives,” he added.
“It was a very difficult scene. We had learned to forget scenes like this in recent years,” Ronen said.
The IDF was investigating two possibilities – that Palestinian terrorists had laid an ambush alongside the road or that the shots were fired from a passing car.
IDF troops immediately launched searches for the perpetrators and the Central Command raised its level of alert, out of fear that Palestinian terrorists will increase efforts to perpetrate attacks in the coming days with the goal of torpedoing the peace summit in Washington.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who heard about Washington to relaunch direct talks with the Palestinians, said upon landing that he would speak in the evening with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and tell her that this “criminal attack” proves again the need for Israel to stand steadfastly by its security demands.
Netanyahu said that his heart goes out to the families of the victims, and that terrorism would not determine Israel’s borders or the future of the settlements.
Netanyahu spoke on the plane with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi.
Netanyahu, according to his office, directed the security branches to act “without any diplomatic constraints against the murderers, and act aggressively against those who sent them.”
Officials in the prime minister’s entourage said that while Netanyahu was outraged by the attack, there was no intention of canceling the trip and returning to Israel.
Magen David Adom paramedics arrived at the scene soon after the shooting at around 7:30 p.m. and declared the four people dead. Paramedics added that one of the women may have been pregnant.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, “Shots were fired from close range at the vehicle at approximately 7:30 p.m. All four occupants of the vehicle were shot dead. Security forces are searching for the attackers.”
According to eyewitness reports, the terrorists succeeded in hitting the passengers in their initial fire, but then approached the car and shot the occupants again at close range.
Following the attack, the Israel Police Operations Branch sent out an order to all officers in the Judea and Samaria district calling on them to increase their awareness and be on the look out for potential terror attacks, while maintaining security in the area.
Barak was also briefed on the attack by Ashkenazi and Diskin.
“This is a very grave incident,” Barak said. “The IDF and Israeli security forces will do everything they can to capture the murderers.
“Israel will not allow terrorists to lift their heads and will exact a price from the murderers and those who sent them. This is likely an attempt by terrorist lowlifes to stymie the diplomatic process and to hurt the chances of the talks opening in Washington.”
Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, who is acting premier during Netanyahu’s absence, released a statement, saying that he was in close contact with Barak and with Netanyahu’s military attache and was constantly receiving updates.
“Unfortunately it has once again been proven that while we are working to find ways to advance peace and coexistence, there are those who will continue trying to commit acts of terror and murdering innocents,” Shalom said.
“Now it is clearer than ever that the real obstacles to peace are terror and the extremists who would do anything to inflame the entire region. The PA must fulfill its obligations in the territories.”
The head of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, spoke with his Palestinian counterparts and updated them regarding the attack. PA security forces were conducting their own investigation into the shooting.
It was unclear if the attack was carried out by an established terror cell or by a small group of attackers not affiliated with a larger terrorist group.
Hamas military wing spokesman Abu Obeida told The Associated Press late Tuesday that Hamas carried out the attack.
While the IDF apparently did not have specific intelligence regarding the Tuesday night’s shooting, there had been concern that terror groups would use the launching of direct peace talks to perpetrate attacks in the West Bank.
Ashkenazi and OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi had toured Judea and Samaria earlier this week and met with brigade commanders.
Ashkenazi asked the commanders to raise their level of vigilance for the duration of the summit in Washington out of fear that either Hamas, Islamic Jihad or even al-Qaida-affiliated elements would launch attacks against Israel.
The forces were also asked to avoid friction with the Palestinian civilian population and to demonstrate sensitivity at the crossings between Israel and the West Bank.
The US labeled the deadly shooting Tuesday “a tragedy” while urging both sides not to take steps that would jeopardize direct peace negotiations, set to be launched Thursday.
“Any time one human being takes out a weapon and fires and kills other human beings, it’s a tragedy,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley following the attack, adding that the US still didn’t know the circumstances surrounding the incident.
“We are cognizant that there could be external events that can have an impact on the environment.
We also are cognizant that there may well be actors in the region who are deliberately making these kinds of attacks in order to sabotage the process,” he said.
“We are very aware that as we go forward in this process, not everyone sees this in the same way, and there are those who will do whatever they can to disrupt or derail the process.”
The head of the Mount Hebron Regional Council, Tzvika Bar-Hai, called on Netanyahu to cancel the Washington talks.
“There is no place for negotiations with those who respond with deadly fire to our hand outstretched for peace,” he said.
“It is time for the leaders of Israel to wake up from the illusion of false peace,” Bar-Hai added.
“We’re talking about one of the worst terrorist attacks in the past few years,” said Naftali Bennet, director-general of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
“We’re asking that the prime minister immediately turn the plane around and come back to Israel. It’s not possible, while we’re holding funerals, that he can stay there. And we’re calling on him, tomorrow morning, to renew the building in Judea and Samaria,” he said.
The council announced Tuesday night that it would respond to the attack by unilaterally ending the construction freeze and starting to build on Wednesday.
On Tuesday night after the attack, several youths gathered at the entrance to Kiryat Arba protesting the talks in Washington.
Right-wing MKs also called for the talks to be frozen.
“The terror attack near Kiryat Arba is a reminder to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who his partners are,” said MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union). “The Likud government’s negotiations with the terrorist Abu Mazen are an energy boost to murder and terror.
The blood of those harmed is upon the head of the Likud government.”
MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said, “Now it is clear – the most violent period is when there are negotiations. Netanyahu must immediately freeze the talks and concentrate on promising peace for Israeli civilians.”
Ariel’s fellow party member MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) joined the calls for Netanyahu to immediately return to Israel.
“Everyone who in recent months was a partner to the myth that Abu Mazen controlled the field must come to their senses and immediately suspend the activities to strengthen the Palestinian army that is being established with American assistance,” said Eldad.
“Such a body is not capable of effectively combating Hamas, and we should not be surprised if its weapons are directed against us.”
Within the coalition, ministers were much less willing to consider freezing the talks, despite the deadly attack.
“I do not think that we need to give a prize to the murderers by not holding talks,” said Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar. “As we see an Israeli hand extended to peace, we see a murderous response on the part of Palestinians.”
Coalition Chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) placed the blame not on the talks themselves, but on coalition partner Barak.
“Unfortunately all of the warnings that the policy of removing checkpoints and easing barriers for Palestinians would lead to terror have come to fruition.
“Defense Minister Barak needs to do his job as the person who is responsible for the security of Israeli civilians and not as a foreign minister who deals in diplomacy,” complained Elkin. “The answer to the attack needs to be an announcement of an immediate cessation of the building moratorium, renewing building in Judea and Samaria and stopping all gestures to the Palestinians.”
Among rank-and-file Likud MKs, many of whom have taken more right-wing stands than those of the party’s ministers, the responses were more ambiguous regarding the future of the talks.
“The terror organizations are passing on a clear message when they return to harming innocent Israeli civilians,” said MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), considered to be one of the most right-wing members of Likud’s Knesset faction.
“This is a warning light to all those who believe that concessions on the Land of Israel will lead to a solution to the conflict.
In the face of terror, one must respond with a strong hand without concessions.”
“We received an additional proof this evening of whom we are dealing, and once again the question arises who our partner is on the opposite side,” said MK Danny Danon (Likud). “We knew that Abu Mazen has no control in the Gaza Strip and, as we saw this evening, he has none in the West Bank either.”
Danon called on Netanyahu to make a condemnation of the attack by Abbas a condition for going ahead with the Washington summit.
On the opposite side of the aisle, MK Ze’ev Bielski (Kadima) said in response that “this horrific and murderous attack that occurred tonight was an attempt to weaken the peace talks through terror. We are witnesses to a condemnable act of murder of innocents. I am certain that the security forces will find the terrorists.
“The peace talks must continue because in the end, there is no way other than through an agreement to prevent terror,” he concluded.
Gil Hoffman, Herb Keinon, and Hilary Leila Krieger, and Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.
Authorities Took Firearm Permit from One of the Victims
by Gil Rone
One of the people murdered by Palestinian Authority terrorists Tuesday used to carry a gun for self-defense, but Israeli authorities took away his permit in late 2009 – leaving him defenseless.
Attorney Yitzchak Bam of the Forum for the Land of Israel represented the deceased man in his legal attempts to win back his gun permit. “In December, he received a letter according to which the permit is suspended because of closed criminal files regarding disturbance of the public peace,” he related. “The last closed file was from the period immediately after the Disengagement,” he said. The permit was extended after the files were closed, however, making it hard to understand why authorities suddenly decided to revoke it.
Shortly after the police's letter arrived at his home, police came to the man's home and took his weapon. An attempt to appeal the decision was rejected.
"The team for the Justice Department's law enforcement in Judea and Samaria, headed by Attorney Shai Nitzan, is the one that set the criteria regarding the licensing of firearms in Judea and Samaria,” Bam said.
Jerusalem Arab Teens Charged in Murder of US Tourist
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
Abbas: Settlers are sitting on lands that are not theirs
Police lifted a gag order Tuesday and revealed they have arrested two Jerusalem Arab teens for allegedly murdering an elderly American tourist in Jerusalem two weeks ago. The vicim apparently refused them a cigarette. Police have not stated whether nationalist motives were involved.
The suspects are aged 13 and 15 and are from an Arab neighborhood in northern Jerusalem. The victim was identified as Lance Wolf, who was described as being 60 years old and living in the capital for approximately the last two years. His children in the United States have been notified of his death.
The youths initially denied they murdered Wolf, but later confessed. Security cameras in the Nahalat Shiva neighborhood located immediately behind the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall caught the murder on camera.
They said they smashed his head with a wooden board after he refused their request for a cigarette in what they said was a rude manner. A short time before, Wolf had agreed to buy vodka for them, and police said the teenagers may have been under the influence of alcohol when they murdered him. They were charged with manslaughter.
Police said the suspects have no criminal record. After Wolf fell under their blows, the two Arabs fled without seeking help for the man, who died of his wounds in Hadassah Hospital several days later.
Most of Israel’s mainstream media did not identify the teenagers as Arabs. This follows a similar omission several weeks ago when American authorities arrested an Israeli Arab for serial murders in the United States as he was about to board a plane for Israel. At that time, most American media did the same and called him an Israeli citizen without using the word Arab.
Hollywood: Three Iranian Jews Murdered
by Elad Benari
Three Iranian Jews living in Los Angeles were found murdered inside their apartment last Thursday, according to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s report.
The three victims were identified as Pirooz Moussazadeh, 27; his brother, Shahriar Moussazadeh, 38; and Bernard Khalili, 27. The sheriff’s report said that deputies arrived at a West Hollywood apartment a little after 9pm following calls to 911 from neighbors who had reported hearing a series of gunshots.
Though police told the Beverly Hills Courier that the victims were “targeted by assailants seeking something from one or more of the victims,” a Los Angeles Times report said that detectives had found no sign of forced entry, drugs or weapons in the apartment.
In 2008, Khalili's sister Bianca died after falling from a high-rise. Her death was ruled a suicide, but rumors of foul play have circulated among the Iranian immigrant community.
Pooya Dayanim, president of the Iranian Jewish Public Affairs Committee, told the Courier: “Our community is shocked by the needless murder of three members of the Iranian Jewish community. I urge the Los Angeles Police Department, the coroner's office, the FBI and all other law enforcement agencies to use all tools at their disposal to fully investigate this tragedy and apprehend the perpetrator(s) of this triple murder.”
According to the Jewish Journal, this case is not the first of its kind among local Iranian Jews. In February 2008 it was reported that one Beverly Hills Iranian Jewish man allegedly shot and then paralyzed his own brother in a dispute. The man was eventually arrested and charged with attempted murder. He jumped bail and a $1 million warrant for his arrest was issued in October 2009. He has since not been located.
The Iranian Jewish community in Los Angeles has its own synagogue, the Nessah Synagogue. Since the murders the synagogue’s Rabbi David Shofet has cautioned community members to refrain from gossiping about the case.
“This is the worst tragedy in our community in the last 30 years,” said synagogue president Mehdi Soroudi. “We all feel the pain of these two families and pray for their peace. Before his sermon this Saturday, Rav David briefly said something that I agree with fully— that we do not know what has happened and therefore it’s not wise for anyone to make speculations or pass judgment.”
Sheriff Deputy Jeff Gordon assured that police was doing everything in their power to locate suspects. “Sheriff's homicide detectives are actively investigating the homicides of these three men and are seeking the suspect(s) responsible,” he said.
MKs to Netanyahu: Come Home Now, This is Your Fault
by Gil Ronen
MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Tuesday to call off the planned direct talks with the Palestinian Authority and to return to Israel immediately to “actively participate in the immediate response that is required” following the multiple murder near Hevron.
Eldad rebuked "everyone who took part in building the myth, in the past months, that Abu Mazen controls the territory” and called upon them to “sober up and immediately suspend the continued activity to strengthen the PA army that is being established with American sponsorship. This body cannot fight Hamas effectively and we will not be surprised if their weapons are turned against us.”
MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari (NU) said in response to the attack that “the terror attack on the outskirts of Kiryat Arba is a reminder to Netanyahu regarding the identity of his partners” in negotiations. “The Likud government's talks with the terrorist Abu Mazen are a shot in the arm to murderous terror. The blood of the victims is upon the head of the Likud government.”
MK Uri Ariel (NU) said: “It is clear by now – the most violent period is when there is a diplomatic process. Netanyahu must freeze the talks immediately and concentrate on safeguarding the security of the citizens of Israel.”
PA President sends message prior to deadly Kiryat Arba attack.
Syria, Hezbollah Sign Defense Pact
Shortly before the deadly attack near Kiryat Arba on Tuesday night, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was on his way to Washington, sent a message to the settlers to the effect that they should leave.
Speaking to the editor of the Bethlehem-based Maan news agency aboard his plane, Abbas said in his message: “You are living on land that doesn’t belong to you and this is impossible.”
Abbas made the statement before the attack.His remarks were published as the main news item of the news agency and other Palestinian media outlets.The editor asked Abbas what message he had for the settlers on the eve of the direct talks with Israel.
Abbas replied: “The settlers are sitting on lands that are not theirs. I tell them that this is not your land and you know that. You can’t impose facts on the ground, because the settlements are illegal and will be removed.”
Meanwhile, PA security sources said that the attack may have been carried out by a cell belonging to either Hamas or Islamic Jihad. A Hamas spokesman told AP on Tuesday night that it had carried out the attack.
The sources said that the attack was clearly designed to foil the US-sponsored direct talks between Israel and the PA and embarrass Abbas.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum defended the attack as a “natural response to Zionist crimes” but stopped short of endorsing it.
Islamic Jihad welcomed the attack, saying it was intended to send a warning to the Palestinian negotiators in Washington.
DAMASCUS - Syria and the Lebanese-based Hezbollah Shiite group have signed a defense pact that includes broad-based "field understandings," according to a report in the Kuwaiti paper al-Rai.
In the event of war with Israel, the two allies will provide military support for one another, including "combat cooperation" such as divvying up the bombing of Israeli targets.
The treaty also calls for setting up a joint operations center "to fill in all the intelligence gaps that can emerge in the battlefield," according to the Kuwaiti report.
The Syrian army will provide Hezbollah with intelligence information on the location of Israeli Air Force bases to target aircraft on the ground.
While Syria's alliance with Hezbollah is not new, signing an official pact will present the Israel Defense Forces with an even more complicated scenario than it faced in the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006.
Other than providing an open border for Iranian armaments to reach Lebanon, Syria heeded Israel's warnings to stay out of that war. The new defense pact promises to complicate the next confrontation.
According to the most recent assessments, Hezbollah possesses an estimated 40,000 medium- and long-range rockets in its arsenal. Syria allegedly is arming some of its missiles with non-conventional warheads.
In the latest visit by Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri to Damascus, one of many over the past year, Syrian President Bashar Assad advised Hariri to support the Iranian-back group, which is now an integral part of the Lebanese government.
Last week, a prolonged gun battle on the streets of Beirut between Hezbollah's Shiite forces and pro-Syrian al-Ahbash Sunni Muslims left three dead.