TEL AVIV (Oct. 9)
Israeli soldiers, combing Gaza for clues to the knife murder Tuesday of Ashkelon taxi driver Yisrael Kitaro, have detained dozens of suspects for questioning. Three men were found in possession of knives of the type that may have been used in the slaying, security sources said Thursday.
The sources said pressure on Gaza residents will continue. Sources see a link between the stabbing of Kitaro in a Gaza garage and the fatal stabbing on September 27 of another Israeli from Ashkelon, Haim Azran, who was assaulted in the Gaza fruit market not far from where Kitaro was attacked.
The investigators now believe several persons may have been involved rather than a lone killer. But they think the attacks were a local initiative, not connected to outside terrorist gangs. Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who visited the scene of Tuesday’s crime, noted that the attackers wielded knives, not the more sophisticated weapons often used by terrorists.
NINE ISRAELIS ATTACKED
Nine Israelis have been attacked with knives in the streets of Gaza over the past 18 months. Most were in town for shopping or to have their cars serviced at prices much lower than in Israel. But except for the ever-present soldiers, Israel were notable by their absence in Gaza.
A senior Army officer said it was the declared policy to encourage Israelis to visit the city. However, he added, they should visit “using their head.” His advice was not to walk around alone, to be armed and to avoid any situations in which an attack could take place.
One bored shopkeeper in the marketplace told a reporter: “This murder hasn’t done us any good. It’s not good for commerce, it’s not good for the people who work here, it doesn’t do our cause any service.” But another local merchant said: “Don’t worry. They (the Israelis) will be back in a day or two. Nothing beats the daily routine.”
Mahmoud Jaber, an Israeli Arab from Abu Gush village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, said he did not fear driving around Gaza in a truck with Israeli license plates and would continue to come as usual. Only a few months ago, an Arab neighbor was taken for an Israeli Jew and stabbed to death in Gaza. But Jaber is a fatalist. “When you are destined to die, you will die wherever you are,” he said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, addressing a memorial meeting for the 1,200 Israeli paratroopers who died in Israel’s wars, denounced “The cowardly terrorist knife-wielders who attack their victims from ambush or with a stab in the back, only because they are Jews.”
He said “Their beastly and brutal actions are doomed to failure. The hand of Arab terrorism has always been broken against our steadfastness.”