TEL AVIV (Sep. 11)
A Palestinian taken into custody for attempted murder aboard a passenger bus Saturday night has confessed to committing an actual murder in Tel Aviv a few days before, the police announced late Sunday.
The suspect, identified only as a 20-year-old resident of the West Bank town of Ramallah, led police to the body of the man he said he killed “because he was a Jew.”
The corpse was concealed in a large pipe at a construction site on the Tel Aviv beachfront, where the Arab and his victim shared duties as night watchman.
The slain man was identified as Michael Ashtamker, 38, a divorced father of three.
Although dead since Thursday, he had not been reported missing. His murder might have gone undetected for some time were it not for the confession, the police said.
The confessed killer was arrested Saturday night after stabbing the driver of a Jerusalem-bound Egged bus, Shlomo Assor, in the stomach and chest, in an apparent attempt to wreck the vehicle.
He was foiled by Assor, who, despite his wounds, halted the bus before it left the road. Enraged passengers swiftly overpowered the Arab and held him for the police.
SHOWED NO REMORSE
In a prepared statement read to reporters Sunday, the police said the suspect admitted under interrogation “that three days ago, he killed a Jew who was working with him at a construction site in Tel Aviv.
“The suspect said his motives were nationalistic,” the police statement added, indicating that it was related to the Palestinian uprising.
According to the police, the suspect showed no remorse, saying he murdered Ashtamker “because he was a Jew, and I’m not sorry about it.”
On Monday, Judge Moshe Ravid of the Jerusalem Magistrates Court ordered the suspect held in custody for another 15 days, while the investigation continues. The remand hearing was held at the police detention facility, rather than in court, to ensure that the suspect’s identity would remain confidential.
Israel Television reported Sunday night that the suspect had been in police custody in 1985 on suspicion of security violations. The authorities are trying to find out if he was involved in other recent attacks on Jews.
Police said the knife he used in the bus stabbing was purchased Friday at the Jaffa flea market.
Those who worked with Ashtamker described him as a man of irregular habits who worked either days or nights. They said his absence for a few days aroused no suspicion.
The construction site, at the foot of Allenby Road, is a historic one. The building that formerly stood there, which has been razed, once housed the Tel Aviv Opera and in 1948, the first Knesset. Before that, in the early 1930s, it was the San Remo, Tel Aviv’s first luxury hotel.