Friday, August 05, 2005
Israeli gunman wearing military uniform kills 3 Arabs on bus.
An Israeli man in a military uniform opened fire on a bus in northern Israel on Thursday after arguing with the Arab passengers, killing at least three of them and wounding several before he was attacked himself, according to the Israeli authorities and media reports.
The gunman's fate was not immediately clear and many of the initial details were sketchy. However, Israeli media reports identified the gunman as Eden Tzuberi, 19, and said he deserted from the Israeli Army more than a month ago after refusing to take part in preparations for Israel's evacuation of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, which is to begin Aug. 15.
The reports said the gunman had been living in Tapuach, one of the most radical Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and that the victims were Arab citizens of Israel.
In the run-up to Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, the Israeli security services have repeatedly expressed fears that radical Jews might carry out attacks against either Israeli leaders or Arabs in an attempt to sabotage the pullout.
If the attack was politically motivated, as it initially appeared, it is certain to further inflame passions as the Gaza evacuation nears.
The shooting took place on a bus traveling near Shfaram, an Arab town in northern Israel. The gunman apparently boarded the bus in the northern Israeli city of Haifa and waited until it reached Shfaram, when most or all of the other passengers were Arabs. The gunmen was involved in a heated argument with the other passengers, and then opened fire with an automatic rifle, according to media reports.
Israeli television showed footage of bodies on the side of the road, covered in sheets, and the broken windows of the bus.
Mohammed Barakeh, an Arab member of Israel's Parliament, told Israel's Channel 10 television that the gunman was beaten to death by other passengers. Barakeh also described the gunman as a supporter of the Kach movement, which was founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane, the radical anti-Arab activist who was fatally shot in New York in 1990.
While the Kach movement is outlawed in Israel, many residents of the Tapuach settlement are believed to be members or supporters.
Tzuberi grew up in Rishon Letzion, a city in central Israel, south of Tel Aviv, but recently moved to Tapuach, according to the Israeli reports.
But the Israeli authorities were cautious about giving out details and did not immediately provide information on the gunman or his possible motives.
"We are unsure if he is a soldier or disguised as a soldier," a police spokesman, Eran Weinmeter, told The Associated Press.
As the Gaza pullout approaches, rightist Israelis have been holding mass protests against the withdrawal, though the latest effort fizzled Thursday.
Thousands of protesters gathered Tuesday night in the southern community of Ofakim and had hoped to march to the Jewish settlements in Gaza. But the police kept the demonstrators in or near Ofakim, which is more than 16 kilometers, or 10 miles, from the Gaza border, and the remaining protesters dispersed Thursday.
Some protesters said they managed to sneak into the Gaza settlements in recent days, though it has been declared off-limits to nonresidents. The police arrested dozens of demonstrators attempting to reach the settlements, but the protest was otherwise peaceful.