Israeli police brace for possible riots
Police braced for possible rioting Friday by Arabs incensed over the killings of four Israeli Arabs by a Jewish soldier opposed to Israel's impending pullout from Gaza, the Associated Press.
The soldier, 19-year-old Eden Natan-Zada, boarded a bus in this Israeli Arab town Thursday and opened fire, killing the driver and three passengers and injuring 13. An enraged mob beat him to death after the shooting and prevented police from removing his body from the bus for hours.
Police commissioner Moshe Karadi said forces had been diverted recently to deal with this week's anti-pullout demonstration in Israel's south, leaving the north ！ where most of Israel's Arab population lives ！ short-handed.
He cautioned that the attack could trigger additional violence. In Jerusalem, ahead of Muslim Sabbath prayers on Friday, police raised their alert to the highest level and assigned SWAT teams and cavalry to the area, in anticipation of possible rioting in the Old City.
For months, Israeli security has been warning that as the mid-August pullout from Gaza and four small northern West Bank settlements nears, desperate extremists might try to sabotage it by attacking Arabs and diverting forces.
Natan-Zada's father said he deserted his army unit in protest after he was ordered to help prepare for the pullout and moved to Tapuah, an extremist West Bank settlement.
The funerals for the four dead ！ including two sisters in their 20s ！ are to be held later Friday.
Natan-Zada is also to be buried Friday in a civilian service, after the Ministry of Defense overturned the army's decision to accord him a military funeral without honors, the military said.
The Haaretz newspaper cited witnesses as saying Natan-Zada boarded the bus bound for Shfaram, a city of 35,000 Muslims, Christians and Druze, in the northern city of Haifa. He wore the skullcap, beard and sidelocks of an ultra-Orthodox Jew, and an orange ribbon symbolizing opposition to the withdrawal was attached to a pocket, the newspaper said.
When the bus entered a Shfaram neighborhood, Natan-Zada opened fire on the driver, killing him instantly, witnesses said.
The bus rolled on for 20 yards until it hit a parked car and ground to a halt, Haaretz said. Natan-Zada continued shooting inside the bus, which was carrying about 20 passengers. He emptied an entire magazine. When he tried loading a new magazine, one of the passengers jumped him.
Ahkim Janhwi told Israel Radio he wrestled the attacker to the ground and disarmed him ！ only to be attacked by a confused crowd who thought he was the gunman.
When the gunfire erupted "I immediately lay down between the seats," Janhwi said. "I thought about everybody who is important to me and who I'm important to, and I thought I was a goner. I closed my eyes and heard his footsteps getting closer to me.
"There was a woman sitting nearby who began screaming and begged him not to do anything to her, and at that moment I jumped on him and grabbed his gun," Janhwi said. "He shot about three bullets, and I pulled him back. We rolled back to the back of the bus and I held him down. Then I called on people through the window to help me."
People who boarded the bus beat Natan-Zada to death, media reports said. Television stations reported Thursday he was attacked with iron bars and stones.
For hours, until the crowd was subdued, the gunman's body lay on the floor of the bus, his head covered with a black plastic bag. His shirtless upper torso was heavily bruised and bloodied.
The windows of the bus were shattered by bullets and by rocks the mob threw at the gunman. Blood stained-seats, and rocks covered the bus floor.
Burning candles marked the site of the attack on Friday morning.
Police were looking for the people who killed the soldier, Army Radio said.
Military chief Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz said he was "definitely worried that people on the fringes are going too far."
"There is no doubt that the unfolding reality, the comments, and the internal debates causes fringe elements to migrate even more toward the fringes," Halutz told Israel Radio.
Israeli Arabs were planning a commercial strike, demonstrations and a memorial gathering in Shrafam on Friday. In Nazareth, the largest Arab city in northern Israel, shops were shuttered Friday morning.
Three juveniles from the West Bank Jewish settlement of Tapuah, aged 15 to 17, were arrested in connection with the deadly attack, Channel 2 TV reported. The three teenagers are suspected of hosting Natan-Zada, knowing of his intentions, and withholding evidence, the report said.
Tapuah is dominated by followers of U.S.-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, who advocated expelling Arabs from Israel and the West Bank. Kahane was assassinated in New York in 1990.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon issued a statement condemning the attack as "a despicable act by a bloodthirsty terrorist." He called for calm.
Yitzhak Natan-Zada, 49, the soldier's father, said Thursday that he had asked the army to find his son, who fled from his unit after refusing to participate in the Gaza pullout. Natan-Zada said he was concerned his son's weapons would fall into the hands of fanatics in Tapuah.
"I wasn't afraid that he would do something. I was afraid of the others," Natan-Zada told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. He said he had no indication his son would carry out such an act. "I spoke to him two days ago and he was a happy and good-hearted boy and he told me he would find the time to return the weapon," Natan-Zada said.
It was the bloodiest such incident in Israel since 1990, when an Israeli opened fire at a bus stop where Palestinians gathered for job placements, killing seven.
In 1994, Baruch Goldstein, an American-born Jewish settler, entered a holy site in the West Bank city of Hebron and opened fire on Muslim worshippers, killing 29 ！ the bloodiest attack by a Jewish extremist against Palestinians.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel to prevent Jewish settlers from carrying weapons. Many have army-issue guns.
Arab citizens of Israel make up about 20 percent of Israel's population of 6.9 million. Though they are full citizens, they have suffered from discrimination by Jewish-dominated governments. Many of their towns and villages lack basic infrastructure, and Arab localities usually top of Israel's unemployment lists.