TEL AVIV (Jul. 16)
Two Arab youths accused of murdering an Israeli businessman Friday committed the crime as part of an “initiation rite” for entry into a terrorist gang, police said Sunday.
The victim, Zalman Yosef Shlein, 64, a wealthy building subcontractor in Gan Yavne, south of Ashdod, was stabbed and bludgeoned to death Friday morning, at a building site near his home.
Two young Arabs laborers from the Gaza Strip were arrested shortly after the crime and reportedly confessed to the killing and explained their motivation.
Their identities were withheld because they are minors. One is said to have been employed by Shlein.
The murder aroused the fury of Jews in Gan Yavne and nearby Ashdod. Police were out in force to prevent anti-Arab violence, especially during Shlein’s funeral later Friday.
Crowds screaming “death to Arabs” threatened reprisals against any Arab found in the town where several hundred are normally employed in agriculture and construction work.
According to Shlein’s widow, the two youths called at their home early Friday morning and asked to speak to Shlein, who was having breakfast.
They said he owed them 100 shekels, about $50.
Shlein’s widow said she gave them water while they waited for her husband, who accompanied them to a nearby building site.
A short time later, a neighbor saw two young Arabs running from the partly completed building. She investigated and found the contractor lying dead in a pool of blood.
TOWN WANTS ARABS BANNED
About an hour later, police picked up two Arab youths on the Gaza-Yavne Road who fit the neighbor’s description.
Townspeople, convinced that Shlein was a victim of the Palestinian uprising, were angered when the police said initially that the murder could have been “either criminal or nationalistic.”
Later,the police concluded it was politically motivated.
Ma’ariv reported Sunday that the suspects re-enacted the crime and admitted under interrogation that they belonged to the intifada’s “popular committee” in the Sajaiyeh quarter of Gaza.
According to Ma’ariv, they told police they acted as the committee’s “shock force” by murdering an Israeli on the Islamic festival of Id el-Adha in order to prove themselves worthy of membership in a terrorist organization.
Residents of Gan Yavne are demanding that all Arab laborers be banned from town immediately.
A spokesman told Israel Radio on Sunday, “If we can’t find Jews, many of whom are unemployed in this region, to do the work done by Arabs, we will employ workers from abroad, from Portugal or elsewhere.”