Hebron shut down after two soldiers killed
News reports from AP, Ha’aretz, AFP
The body of an Israeli soldier is loaded into a truck, 21st September. Photo by Ammar Awad/ Reuters
By Ian Deitch, AP
September 21, 2013
JERUSALEM — A Palestinian lured an Israeli soldier to a village in the West Bank and killed him with the intention of trading the body for his brother jailed for terror attacks, Israel’s intelligence agency said Saturday, in a slaying that casts another shadow on U.S. mediated peace talks that restarted this summer.
The killing further sours the atmosphere for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which resumed in July for the first time in nearly five years. The deaths of several Palestinians in Israeli raids in the West Bank intended to detain militants involved in attacks has also caused tensions, with the Palestinian side cancelling one session last month in response. Israel has made its security concerns a top priority in talks.
The 20-year-old soldier was reported missing late Friday and Israeli forces began looking for him, the Shin Bet intelligence agency said. The search led the troops to Nidal Amar, a 42-year-old Palestinian from Beit Amin village near the city of Qalqiliya in the northern West Bank.
Amar was arrested and confessed to killing the soldier, whom he knew because they worked at the same restaurant in the coastal city of Bat Yam in central Israel, the agency said. The military identified the slain soldier as Sgt. Tomer Hazan from Bat Yam.
According to Shin Bet, the Palestinian recounted how he had picked up Hazan in a taxi on Friday after convincing him to accept a ride. He took the Israeli to an open field, killed him and hid his body in a well, the agency said.
Israeli forces raided Amar’s home early Saturday, interrogating and arresting Amar and his brother.
Shin Bet said Amar confessed to intending to trade Hazan’s body for another brother, in an Israeli jail since 2003 for his role in several terror attacks. He then showed the Israeli forces where the body was hidden.
The agency did now say how Amar convinced the soldier to join him on the ride Friday.
A senior military official said initial investigations suggested that Palestinian individuals planned the attack on their own, not on the orders of any militant groups. The official did not elaborate on who else may have been involved in the plot besides Amar. The jailed bother had been involved in shootings and bombings, the official said.
Hazan had a non-combat position in the air force and had an arrangement allowing him to hold a job outside the military — at the restaurant, where he knew the Palestinian, the officials said. He was killed with a “cold weapon” — meaning, not a firearm — but the official would not disclose the exact weapon used. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Such cases are rare, but it is not the first instance of Palestinians abducting Israeli soldiers, sometimes killing them afterward. The military has a long standing campaign warning soldiers not to accept rides from strangers.
In 2001, a Palestinian woman lured an Israeli teenage boy over the Internet to the West Bank where he was murdered by waiting Palestinian militants.
The woman, Amna Muna, was released along with over a thousand other Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a single Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit, held captive in Gaza by Hamas-allied militants in 2011.
That deal was the most lopsided prisoner swap in Israel’s history. The country was at the time torn between freeing Palestinians involved in bloody attacks like bus bombings and bringing a soldier back home. It still touches a raw nerve in Israel. Yitzhak Ilan, a former deputy head of the Shin Bet, told channel 10 TV that by finding Hazan’s body quickly, a wider strategic incident was averted because it meant the soldier’s remains couldn’t be used as a bargaining chip, as in some past cases.
The latest deaths only increase the mistrust between the two sides as they hold negotiations after a hiatus of nearly five years. Talks collapsed in 2008, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spent months early this year persuading the sides to get talks back on track again.
The Palestinians had initially refused and demanded an end to Israeli settlement building in areas they demand for a future state as a precondition for resuming talks. Israel insisted that settlements along with all other core issues like security arrangements should be resolved in talks.
Kerry managed to get the Palestinians to drop their demand in exchange for Israel’s release of long-time Palestinian prisoners involved in killing Israeli civilians and soldiers.
Israeli soldiers carry the body of a fellow soldier who was killed near the West Bank town of Qalqilya onto a military helicopter September 21, 2013
A Palestinian resident of Beit Amin admitted that he lured the soldier into the West Bank and murdered him in order to trade his body for the release of his incarcerated brother.
By Jack Khoury and Gili Cohen, Ha’aretz
September 21, 2013
Tomer Hazan, 20, an IDF soldier that entered the West Bank was murdered in Qalqilyah during the weekend. Hazan’s body was discovered on Saturday morning near Qalqilyah and his family was notified, the IDF spokesman said.
Hazan’s funeral will take place on Sunday at 4 P.M. at the Holon military cemetery.
A report that Hazan, a resident of Bat Yam, central Israel, went missing came in at 10 P.M. Friday after he hadn’t contacted his family since Friday morning. The IDF, Shin Bet and the police set up a joint taskforce in an attempt to find him.
Over the last day it was uncovered that Hazan, who worked in a Bat Yam restaurant together with Nadal Amar, a Palestinian resident of Beit Amin near Qalqilyah. Amar picked up the Hazan on Friday and the two took a taxi to the Israeli West Bank settlement Sha’arei Tikva, located near Amar’s village.
Amar, who was arrested by security forces on Saturday, admitted that he led Hazan to a well north of the Palestinian town Sanriya, near Qalqilyah, where he murdered him and hid his body. A few hours ago, Amar led the Israeli security forces to the seven meter deep well where the body was hidden.
In his Shin Bet interrogation Amar admitted he lured Hazan to the West Bank. It is still unclear why Hazan agreed.
In the investigation, the Palestinian suspect admitted that he committed the murder in order to bring about the release of his brother, Nur al-Adin Amar, who has been incarcerated in Israel since 2003 and is considered a Tanzim member involved in a number of terrorist attacks.
Several of Amar’s family members were also arrested. The Shin Bet said that the investigation is still ongoing and that further arrests can be expected.
Azzoun has been put under curfew and journalists are not allowed in, while the IDF is still conducting a search the area.
Palestinian news agency Maan reported that 18 IDF vehicles were searching the village of Jaba, east of Ramallah. The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that six brothers were arrested in Beit Amin, near Azzoun.
Soldiers stop Palestinians leaving Hebron in their hunt for the killer of Phoyo by Ahmad Gharabril/AFP
Manhunt after Israeli soldier shot dead in Hebron
By Jonah Mandel, AFP
September 23, 2013
JERUSALEM — Israeli troops on Monday hunted for a suspected Palestinian gunman who shot a soldier dead in Hebron, days after another Palestinian killed a soldier in a separate incident.
The killings have cast a pall over peace talks relaunched last month after a three-year hiatus, with Israeli ministers calling on the government to reconsider its decision to negotiate with the Palestinians.
The United States condemned both attacks, which it said “undermine efforts to establish the positive atmosphere the parties need to progress in peace negotiation.”
The Israeli military on Sunday said a soldier died in hospital after sustaining gunshot wounds in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, later identifying him as 20-year-old Sergeant Gabriel Koby from Tirat Hacarmel in northern Israel.
Israeli police said earlier the soldier had been shot, “probably by terrorists,” although the gunman had fled the scene.
A military spokeswoman told AFP on Monday that most of the roadblocks used to seal off the city the previous night were removed by morning and the army was searching in a “more specific” manner.
She said the army had apprehended two Palestinians for holding hunting rifles, but that they were not connected to Sunday’s incident.
The shooting took place close to the volatile Cave of the Patriarchs — sacred to both Jews and Muslims — during the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which began on Thursday and has seen thousands of Jewish visitors to the biblical city.
Following the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the resettlement of the disputed Machpela house, a Hebron structure near the Cave of the Patriarchs from which he had removed 15 Jewish settlers last year.
“Whoever tries to uproot us from the city of our patriarchs will achieve the opposite,” he said in a statement.
“We will continue to fight terror and strike at its perpetrators with one hand, while strengthening the settlements with the other.”
Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki on Monday accused Israel of unfairly “holding the Palestinian leadership responsible for what happens in the West Bank” in an interview with Voice of Palestine.
The settlers, who claimed to have bought the Hebron building from its Palestinian owners, inhabited the structure briefly before being removed in April 2012, with the defence ministry saying they did not have the necessary permits to finalise the purchase.
Noam Arnon, spokesman for the Jewish settlement in Hebron, told AFP a military court had recently ruled the purchase legal and said all that was needed to finalise the deal was the approval of Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon.
But an official involved in the process told AFP the purchase was still facing “legal bureaucracy” issues, and would not say when these might be resolved.
On Saturday, Israel discovered the body of Tomer Hazan, a 20-year-old soldier who had been lured to a village in the northern West Bank on Friday and killed by a Palestinian man with whom he had worked in a seaside town near Tel Aviv.
Army spokesman Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai ruled out a link between the two killings and rebuffed suggestions they indicated a deterioration in Israel’s security situation.
“We see these as isolated incidents,” Mordechai said in a statement, “not as a new trend.”
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon announced he would be holding consultations Monday with members of the security establishment.
Senior cabinet minister Naftali Bennett said the two attacks should push Israel to reconsider its involvement in peace talks with the Palestinians.
“Under the auspices of negotiation celebrations, Sukkot has turned into a festival of bloodshed and harm to Israeli soldiers,” he said in a letter sent to Netanyahu.
“There is no doubt that there have been unfortunate developments since the start of the negotiations, which require the government to reconsider its path,” he wrote.
And Transportation Minister Israel Katz, of Netanyahu’s Likud party, slammed the Palestinian Authority for not condemning the two killings and called for a halt to the planned release of a second batch of Palestinian prisoners, after Israel set 26 free ahead of talks last month.
“Another group (of Palestinian prisoners) is about to be released,” he said in a statement. “Now is the time to stop.”