Menu JTA Search

Young Israeli Soldier Held on Suspicion of Firing Anti-tank Missle at an Arab Bus in Which One Arab

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

A young infantry soldier was remanded in custody by a Jerusalem magistrate today on suspicion that he fired an anti-tank missile at an Arab bus on the outskirts of Jerusalem last Sunday, killing one passenger and wounding 10 others.

The suspect, identified as David Ben-Shimol, 18, of Jerusalem, was said to have freely confessed to the the crime. Three other soldiers were detained for questioning as possible accomplices before the fact. According to the Army Radio, one of them has since been released and another, a young woman soldier, will be released later today. Their identities were withheld by order of the court.

Avraham Turgeman, Southern District Police Commander, told reporters last night that the suspect cooperated with the police in reconstructing his assault on the bus and another crime of which he is accused — throwing a grenade into an Arab coffee shop in the Old City of Jerusalem — which occurred six weeks ago. The reconstructions were recorded on video tape.

Ben-Shimol has a police record and was tracked down, police said, by fingerprints on the hand-held missile-launcher which was found near the scene of the bus assault. The police determined that the missile and launcher were stolen from the crack Golani infantry brigade, the unit in which Ben-Shimol served until he deserted two weeks ago.

BACKGROUND TO THE SUSPECT

The suspect was described as one of 10 children of a religious family of Moroccan Jews who live in Jerusalem’s Katamon quarter. His father is an unemployed ritual slaughterer. According to press accounts, the youth abandoned religious practice and became estranged from his family. But his father told reporters today that the family decided to stand by him and hire an attorney. According to the elder Ben-Shimol, his son’s girlfriend was killed in an Arab terrorist attack on a Jerusalem bus earlier this year.

Police said Ben-Shimol acted out of “nationalist” motives. They said he told questioners that he was enraged by the murder of two Israeli hikers by an Arab on the West Bank two weeks ago. The alleged killer, 22 year-old Issa Nimr Jibrin, arrested last week, confessed to the double murder.

NOT THE WORK OF ZEALOTS

Ben-Shimol left a note near the abandoned missile launcher which he signed “the avenger.” Police said the note, written in flawed Hebrew, was attributed to Jewish extremists, possibly operating as a terrorist cell. Observers therefore expressed surprise that the attack on the Arab bus was not the work of rightwing zealots but apparently the act of an impressionable Sephardic youth from a poor family.

It was such youngsters who voted in large numbers for the extremist Kach Party in the July 23 elections, giving its leader, Rabbi Meir Kahane, a Knesset mandate. Yediot Achronot reported today that Ben-Shimol recently sought to join Kach. While the attack on the Arab bus shocked most Israelis, Kahane publicly praised it as the act of a “proud Jew.” Last week Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir instructed the police to investigate Kahane’s remarks to see if they constituted a criminal act of incitement. There are moves underway in the Knesset to strip Kahane of his parliamentary immunity.

NEXT STORY