JERUSALEM (Sep. 3)
Attorney General Meir Shamgar told the Cabinet yesterday he found no grounds for legal prosecution or disciplinary action against the hike leader, teachers and guides who fled from the Maalot schoolhouse when three terrorists attacked on May 15, leaving their young charges to the mercy of the assailants. The terrorists murdered 21 children, three members of the Cohen family and a soldier.
Shamgar found hike leader Yona Amrosi’s actions “reasonable and without fault” since Amrossi had clearly leapt from a window in a vain effort to make for his parked car where his Uzi submachine gun had been left for the night.
Two teachers, Zion Cohen and Rabbi Yosef Amar, had “acted without much thought” in following Amrossi through the window and fleeing. They ought to have been among the last to flee, not among the first, Shamgar noted. But their action provided no basis for legal prosecution nor disciplinary action, though it might “throw light upon their stability to serve as teachers,” he added.
The cases of two soldiers who accompanied the hike and also fled through the window were transferred to the army’s Judge-Advocate who also found no grounds for legal action against them.
PARENTS REJECT REPORT
Parents in Safed of the Maalot victims angrily rejected the report and threatened to stage a hunger strike in Jerusalem if the teachers and hike leader were not punished. Safed Mayor Aharon Nahmias promised the angry parents that he would fully report their reservations to Premier Yitzhak Rabin and relay a response from him within two days.
In his 11-page report to the Cabinet, Shamgar stressed the need to view the events not in the light of hindsight but in the light of the circumstances and considerations pertaining to the time the actions were committed.
Thus, Shamgar said, he believed Amrossi, who testified that he thought the three assailants were about to slaughter all the children and his only hope of saving them was to leap out, bring his gun, and shoot it out. Amrossi insisted that he had not lost his head but that this was the sanest course of action. He had served, he noted in evidence, in a crack regiment and had experience fighting terrorists.
Cohen and Amar had followed Amrossi through the window not knowing then that a day of anguish and blackmail was to follow, but thought that it was “every man for himself” in a frantic effort to escape death.