JERUSALEM (Jun. 26)
The Cabinet has asked State Attorney Meir Shamgar to examine the possibility of legal action against teachers and guides who fled the schoolhouse at Maalot last May 15, leaving their young charges to the mercies of three armed terrorists who took them hostage and later murdered 25, it was learned from reliable sources today. The report of the special committee set up by the government to investigate the Maalot tragedy is said to be sharply critical of those who fled. But legal observers here believe that no action is likely to be taken against them.
The report of the three-member Maalot inquiry committee, headed by Res. Gen. Amos Horev, was submitted to the Cabinet Sunday and portions of its contents not affecting security will be made public and debated in the Knesset tomorrow. But some sections of the report have been leaked to the press during the past two days.
According to sources who have seen it, the report completely clears Shlomo Ben Lulu, the headmaster of the Safad high school whose pupils made up the majority of the Maalot victims. Ben Lulu, was assailed by bereaved parents and others for permitting the youngsters to go on the Independence Day hike and camping trip May 14-15, a time when terrorist activity was anticipated. But the Maalot committee’s report found that he took all required precautions, consulted all relevant security authorities and followed the Education Ministry’s standing orders in permitting the hike, the sources said.
The report also cleared the army and police of blame for the deaths of the students when they stormed the Maalot school building late on the afternoon of May 15 in an attempt to rescue the hostages. But according to knowledgeable sources, the Horev committee cited deficient communications between security forces at Maalot and the Cabinet room in Jerusalem during the May 15 ordeal. It reportedly found that the Cabinet’s decisions during the day were taken without the ministers being in possession of all the facts. It recommended that future emergencies of this kind be handled by a small ad hoc group of ministers rather than by a full Cabinet. In addition to Gen. Horev, who is president of the Haifa Technion, other members of the Maalot committee were Moshe Una, a former NRP Knesset member and former State Attorney Erwin Shimron.