TEL AVIV (Dec. 16)
Israel ordered the deportation of four Palestinians from the Gaza Strip as police searched over the weekend for two Arabs suspected of brutally murdering three Jews at an aluminum-processing plant in Jaffa early Friday morning.
The victims of the attack were repeatedly stabbed and their bodies mutilated. They were identified as Iris Asraf, 22, of Jaffa, a clerk employed at the factory; Moshe Eiwan, 30, of Rehovot, a pipe fitter; and Yehoshua Hachmaz, 40, of Bat Yam.
Hachmaz, employed at a nearby upholstering factory, was killed when he rushed to the aluminum plant in response to the screams of the other two victims, the police surmise.
The suspects, one of whom was employed at the factory and is known to the police, live in the Gaza Strip. The territory has been sealed off since the killings, and there have been large-scale arrests.
Police meanwhile had their hands full subduing widespread anti-Arab rioting by Jews infuriated over the murderous attack.
Nationalist slogans spray-painted in Arabic on the blood-stained factory walls made clear it was the work of Hamas to avenge Palestinians killed by Israelis in the intifada.
‘IT LOOKED LIKE A SLAUGHTERHOUSE’
Hardened cops emerged from the scene of the crime pale and shaken. “A veritable massacre,” said one.
“It looked like a slaughterhouse,” said another. “The victims were not just stabbed. Mayhem was committed on them.”
A police pathologist said the bodies bore multiple stab wounds inflicted with two large fish knives found on the scene.
The body of one victim reportedly was sliced into quarters. Another was nearly decapitated, and a third was disemboweled.
The murders occurred at the Alum-Shin factory, near the Blumenfeld football stadium in Jaffa. The ancient port city adjacent to Tel Aviv was an Arab town until its capture by Israel in the 1948 War for Independence. It was subsequently incorporated into Tel Aviv.
The bodies of the victims were discovered Friday when one of the two clerks at the plant arrived for work at 8:30 a.m. and was surprised to find the door still locked. She opened it with a spare key, found the bloody body of her fellow clerk lying near the door and ran screaming for help.
An employee of a nearby carpentry shop accompanied her back into the factory, but the two of them quickly retreated screaming.
A traffic policeman on a motor scooter radioed for help, bringing uniformed police and detectives to the scene. They discovered the two other bodies.
According to the police reconstruction of events, Asraf and Eiwan arrived at the plant with their Arab co-worker and an unknown companion, who attacked them as soon they were inside.
Hearing screams, Hachmaz from the upholstering factory rushed to their aid and was himself stabbed to death.
The slogans spray-painted on the walls in Arabic said Hamas was responsible for the killings. “This is revenge for the intifada Palestinian victims,” one slogan announced.
MAYOR SUGGESTS SEPARATE STATE
News of the latest murders inflamed the Jewish populace already infuriated by the recent wave of stabbings of Jews by Arabs in the administered territories, East Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel proper.
Over the weekend, Arab laborers from the territories were accosted and beaten on the streets. Palestinian cars bearing the distinctive blue license plates of the territories were stoned and in some cases set on fire.
Police tried as best they could to calm tempers and prevent agitators from arousing the crowds.
Knesset member Rehavam Ze’evi, leader of the right-wing Moledet party, which advocates the mass expulsion of Arabs from Israel and the territories, showed up at the aluminum factory, but police kept him away from the crime scene.
There were incidents of panic among Jews.
On Sunday, a 31-year-old woman from Jaffa claimed she was attacked outside the Tel Aviv City Hall by an Arab wielding a “big, black knife” who she said fled when she screamed.
Police cordoned off the area and started a dragnet. But no trace was found of the alleged assailant, and no corroborative witnesses were found.
The woman later admitted she imagined the attack. She now faces charges of false alarm.
Some 400,000 Palestinians remained sealed off in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, and many were subjected to house-to-house searches.
Palestinian sources claimed that more than 1,000 Arabs have been taken into custody so far. The Israel Defense Force disputed that number, but offered no figures of its own. Other Israeli sources said there had been 700 arrests.
Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lahat, a progressive within the Likud party, demanded the death penalty for the killers in a television interview Sunday. He also supported strict limits on the hours Palestinians from the territories are allowed into the city.
But Lahat ran into trouble with the Likud leadership by saying that the only way to end the intifada is to establish a separate state for the Palestinians in most of the administered territories. Likud colleagues called for his ouster from the party.