JERUSALEM (Dec. 14)
The killing of a Jewish settler and an army reservist in the West Bank has triggered a new barrage of criticism here that the Israel Defense Force has allowed the security situation in the administered territories to deteriorate.
Jewish settlers in the West Bank and their political supporters in Likud are enraged over the incident, which occurred Tuesday in Bracha, a settlement near Nablus.
Hamdan Najar, 25, a shepherd from the nearby Arab village of Burin, killed a settler, Yaacov Parag, 30, apparently with a stone that lodged in his head.
Najar seized Parag’s rifle and opened fire on an approaching IDF patrol, fatally wounding reservist Arthur Herstig, 42, of Petach Tikva. He wounded two other soldiers before he was shot to death.
Initial reports of the incident Tuesday did not mention the soldier’s death.
Herstig and Parag were each fathers of three children and Parag’s wife is pregnant with their fourth child. The double killing infuriated the settlers.
They unleashed their wrath at a stormy meeting Tuesday night with Gen. Dan Shomron, the IDF chief of staff; Gen. Amram Mitzna, commander of the central sector; and Gen. Shaike Erez, head of the West Bank civil administration.
Mitzna was assailed for stating that it was still not clear whether the attack on the settler was politically motivated or the result of a quarrel over land.
Transport Minister Haim Corfu of Likud, who represented the government at Parag’s funeral, called his death “cold-blooded murder” that no one should “try to wrap up as a land dispute.”
Benny Katzover, head of the Samaria regional council, charged that Najar deliberately ambushed Parag and the soldiers. Other settlers said the fact the Arab was bold enough to fire on soldiers showed how far gone the situation is.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir told a settler delegation that visited him on Wednesday, “We should do our utmost so that our enemies will be more afraid, and our hold onto the area will be more tangible.”
The incident climaxed months of tension between the Bracha settlers and the residents of Burin, who claim the settlement was built on land expropriated from them.