TEL AVIV (Oct. 6)
A berserk Egyptian policeman opened fire on a group of Israeli tourists in Sinai yesterday killing seven of them, a man, two women and four children. Three of the victims were members of one family. Two children were wounded.
The tragedy capped a week of murderous events in Israel. A horseman, identified as Haim Falah, 30, of Migdal HaEmek, was ambushed and shot to death in the Emek sometime yesterday. The mass search for a young couple missing since last Wednesday ended yesterday morning with the discovery of the bullet-riddled bodies of Edna Harari, 22, and Mordechai Suissa, 24, in the Judaean hills southwest of Jerusalem where they had gone on a picnic.
The Sinai victims were identified as Haman Shelah, a Jerusalem magistrate, his wife lIana and their daughter, Zelil, 12. Also killed were Dinah Berri and Ofra Gila Turel, both 12; Amir Baum, 10; and Anita Griffel, 35, all of Jerusalem. Ehud and Moshe Baum, younger brothers of Amir, were wounded. Two other children in the party escaped unhurt.
PART OF GROUP OF SUCCOT CAMPERS
They had been part of a group of 27 Israelis who had gone on a Succot camping trip to Sinai. They were admiring the view from the beach at Ras Burka, 40 kilometers south of Eilat, when they came under fire from an Egyptian policeman or soldier standing on a hilltop over looking the beach.
The assailant’s branch of service was uncertain and controversy surrounds the behavior of the Egyptian authorities in the aftermath of the tragedy which occurred on the 12th anniversary of the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War–October 5, 1973.
The 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty forbids Egypt to station soldiers in the area of Sinai where the Israelis were slain. The region is guarded by what the Egyptians call the Sinai Police Force. The Egyptians say the policeman ran amok and announced the appointment of an inquiry commission to investigate the incident. Israeli sources say the killer may have been a soldier and some believe the Sinai police are in fact soldiers. Israel has asked Egypt for a full account of the mass shooting.
CONFLICTING EYEWITNESS REPORTS
Eyewitness reports conflicted. According to some the policeman, or soldier, fired first at a different group of Israelis on the beach and, after missing them, turned his weapon on a group closer by. According to some reports, the berserk man killed an Egyptian officer who tried to disarm him. There were unconfirmed reports that the killer then shot himself but Egyptian authorities said he was captured alive. They gave no identification.
Some Israelis returning to Eilat said the Egyptians at the scene were in panic and disarray and prevented a doctor and a group of medical students nearby from going to the aid of the victims. A doctor told Israel Radio later that this was untrue. He said he had helped the Egyptians attend the victims.
There were also complaints, denied by the Egyptian Consul in Eilat, that Egyptian police held up the evacuation of the dead and wounded to Eilat, insisting they be taken to nearby Nueiba further south in Sinai.
Members of the party which was attacked charged that Egyptian security personnel would not allow them to approach the wounded victims who subsequently died. But one woman said this proably was because the beserk policeman or soldier was still uncaptured and the Egyptians feared he would open fire again.
DELAYED TREATMENT OF THE WOUNDED
The dead and the wounded were eventually brought to Eilat, but only after five hours on what should have been a 40-minute drive. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry reportedly informed the Israeli Ambassador in Cairo that the border crossing point at Taba would be kept open to allow the wounded and other Israelis to leave Sinai without the usual frontier formalities.
Members of the United Nations Multinational Force in Sinai reportedly helped with the evacuation. Doctors at the Eilat hospital said the delays probably cost the wounded their lives.
Health Minister Mordechai Gur called today for an investigation of the delayed treatment of the wounded. Acting Foreign Minister Moshe Arens said he would investigate whether the Egyptians have indeed stationed soldiers in that part of Sinai in violation of the peace treaty.
Egyptian officals said yesterday’s tragedy was the first time Israelis have been killed in Sinai by uniformed Egyptian personnel since the border between the two countries was opened under terms of their peace treaty.
But there have been several instances in the past two years of Israeli couples being murdered by terrorists while on outings or picnics in remote regions of the country. The couples usually have been romantically linked.
APPARENT VICTIMS OF TERRORISTS
Edna Harari, of Moshav Tiresh, a laboratory assistant at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, and Mordechai Suissa, a computer expert, also from Jerusalem, apparently were victims of a terrorist gang. They had become acquainted during an outing several months ago. Their families said they planned to marry.
They left on a picnic last Wednesday morning. When they failed to return home, police were alerted and a search began. By Friday, about 1,000 policemen, border police, soldiers and civilian volunteers, joined by army helicopters and mounted soldiers. were scouring the countryside.
Their locked car was found near Mevuot Betar a day earlier. Their personal effects, including a picnic basket were inside, untouched. Yesterday morning their bodies were found. According to police they were shot first from a distance and then, at close quarters, through their heads.
Three other Israeli couples have been murdered by terrorists in the Jerusalem hills, one couple in 1979 and two others since 1984. The third murders were last June. Another couple, school teachers from Afula, were murdered in the Gilboa hills last July. Police captured several suspects who are presently on trial and are searching for accomplices.
The body of the slain horseman, Falah, was discovered yesterday by a jogger from Kibbutz Sarid. Police said he was horseback riding, leading his mare’s foal, when he was killed apparently from ambush.