JERUSALEM (Apr. 27)
The Arab residents of the West Bank village of Beita were chiefly responsible for the fatal April 6 clash with a group of Jewish teen-agers from the nearby settlement of Eilon Moreh, an investigation by the Israel Defense Force has concluded.
The IDF submitted its report on the incident to the Inner Cabinet on Wednesday. It confirmed that 15-year-old Tirza Porat of Eilon Moreh was killed by a bullet from an M-16 rifle accidentally fired by Romam Aldubi, one of two armed Jewish settlers escorting the teen-agers, who were on a Passover hike.
The report also confirmed that Aldubi, 26, had killed two Palestinians in the encounter and that the hike had not been properly coordinated with the military authorities in the region.
Nevertheless, responsibility for the events rests with the villagers who attacked the youths, Maj. Gen. Amram Mitzna, commander of the central region, said in summing up the IDF report at a news conference here.
He said the IDF probe determined that “the motivation and aggression of local Arabs and their readiness to hurt a group of Jewish hikers are the main contributors to the development of the affair and its tragic ending.”
But he also said, “Had the hike been properly planned and coordinated, according to standard procedures, the event and its tragic consequences could have been prevented.”
Mitzna also pointed to “carelessness in the use of firearms and trigger-happiness” as being “contributing factors to the escalation of events.”
NO EVIDENCE ARABS FIRED
The report ruled out claims by Jewish settlers and some right-wing politicians who interviewed the hikers that Arabs had fired on the group or thrown grenades. But the report affirmed the hikers’ account that they had been forced to run a gauntlet through Beita village.
According to the IDF, the incident began when the public address system atop the local mosque announced that “settlers are approaching the village.”
The hikers were attacked, the IDF report said. Aldubi fired several warning shots from his Uzi submachine gun. The attack continued and he fired his M-16 rifle, killing one villager.
Aldubi then engaged in an angry exchange with another villager who, according to the report, tried to grab his rifle. He then fatally shot the villager.
The Jewish hikers were forced to walk through the village. Aldubi was attacked and stoned unconscious by the sister of the Palestinian youth he had killed, the report said. He is still listed in serious condition at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.
Aldubi, a yeshiva student, is a follower of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s extremist Kach movement and is known for his hostility toward Arabs.
He was barred by the IDF from entering Nablus for six months last year because of a shooting spree, but was allowed to keep his government-issued rifle.
The IDF report admitted that a few villagers tried to calm tempers during the clash. A day later, the IDF demolished 14 homes in Beita, whose owners allegedly participated in the attack on the hikers.
Meanwhile, three days of relative quiet in the administered territories ended Wednesday. A 13-year-old Palestinian girl from Dik village, near Tulkarm in the West Bank, died Tuesday in a Nablus hospital of wounds suffered in a clash with Israeli security forces.