JERUSALEM (Jan. 4)
The bloody murder this week of a Shin Bet agent was a double blow for the Israeli security agency.
Not only did it lose one of its rising stars, but it meant yet another victory for Hamas only two weeks after Israel expelled most of the Islamic fundamentalist group’s leadership to Lebanon.
In a somber day for the General Security Services, as the agency is formally known, Haim Nahmani, 25, was laid to rest Monday on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl, in a state funeral attended by hundreds.
Only the morning before, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was telling a student audience here that Israel was a safer place since the Dec. 17 deportation to Lebanon of 415 activists of Hamas and another fundamentalist group, the Islamic Jihad.
A few hours later, Nahmani was brutally murdered in an apartment in Rehavia, Jerusalem’s most prestigious neighborhood.
In separate incidents the same day, a Jewish carpenter was seriously wounded in a knife attack by an Arab laborer at a construction site in Holon, and a pipe bomb exploded in the luggage compartment of an Egged passenger bus, luckily causing no casualties and little damage.
The murder in Jerusalem took place shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday. A neighbor at 14 Hatibonim St. reported hearing a loud noise from the first floor. Going down to check it out, he found an apartment door open.
Inside, water flooded the floor from a running shower. In one room, he discovered a man lying in a pool of blood and water. Blood stains smeared the wall and several armchairs were overturned. A hammer, later identified as one of the murder weapons, lay near the body.
When police arrived, the victim was identified as Nahmani, a Shin Bet field operative. He had been bludgeoned with a hammer and repeatedly stabbed.
ARAB COLLABORATOR SUSPECTED
Police have no doubt about the identify of the murderer: an Arab collaborator who had been supplying information about Hamas. Police launched a manhunt for him as they pursued leads about a possible accomplice.
Nahmani apparently received the collaborator in the apartment, which was most likely a safe house for meetings between agents and their informers. From the disorder in the apartment, investigators surmise Nahmani struggled with one or two attackers but did not manage to draw his pistol.
The pistol was gone, but a file of documents was not taken by the murderer or murderers.
Several possible motives are being considered:
The collaborator may have been exposed by his sources and forced to assassinate his operator, lest he be killed himself.
Alternatively, he may have acted at his own initiative, either in revenge for the deportations, or as a double agent who had finally decided to take the Arab side.
This was the first time in nearly 13 years that a Shin Bet agent was murdered by his informant. The last person to be killed under similar circumstances was Moshe Golan in 1980.
Golan met an informant from Nablus in an apartment in Netanya. The informant threw pepper in his eyes and stabbed him to death. The murderer was tracked down four days later in the heart of Nablus and killed.
Paying homage to Nahmani at the funeral Monday were senior army officers, heads of the security services, Knesset members and other public figures.
“Your fate has destined you to be one of the unknown soldiers who stand in the first line of fire,” a Shin Bet commander said in a eulogy.
“True, there is a rise in terrorism,” said the officer, “but only you knew, only your friends know how many tragedies have been prevented.”
Jubilant Palestinian deportees in Lebanon said Monday that the stabbing was evidence their expulsion had not achieved the results Israel had intended.
In Tel Aviv, Maj. Gen. Danny Rothschild, coordinator of government affairs in the administered territories, said Israel did not expect terror activity to cease altogether as a result of the deportation.
But he said that in the long run, fighting terrorism and combating the organizational structure of the Islamic fundamentalist movement would reap benefits.