An Israeli military court on Monday indicted a Hamas terrorist – released in the 2011 Gilad Shalit deal – for killing an Israeli man and wounding two children in the Passover eve terrorist attack near the Tarkumia checkpoint in the West Bank.
Hamas member Ziad Awawde, 42, was arrested in May by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Service) and police commandos, on suspicion that he had stood by the side of the Route 35 shooting at passing vehicles, including the one driven by Baruch Mizrahi as he headed with his family to a Passover seder.
But news of Awawde’s arrest was published only on Monday, the same day that a military court indicted him on charges of first degree murder, attempted murder, weapons charges and for membership in a banned organization.
During the investigation, Awawde’s son Iz-Adin Ziad Hassan Awawde, 18, turned in the weapon used in the attack – an AK 47 assault rifle – and also provided information about the crime that indicated his involvement in it, according to the Shin Bet.
The Shin Bet said they also learned that Awawde acquired a motorcycle and the rifle in order to carry out the attack. A week before the shooting he scouted out the location to gather intelligence, according to the security service. After the killing, Awawde told his son Aladdin that he carried out the shooting for religious reasons and that “according to Islam, anyone who kills a Jew goes to heaven,” the Shin Bet said.
A senior army source said of the shooting, “This attack was planned thoroughly ahead of time. He is a Hamas member, and he used a standard [automatic weapon] to fire on the vehicle, before fleeing the scene on a motorcycle.”
The Shin Bet, the police’s counterterrorism unit, the police’s crime scene investigation officers, and the IDF all joined forces to track Awawde down, the source said.
According to Israel Police, the suspects in the killing were caught largely due to crime scene work carried out by forensic officers at the murder scene.
In particular, they found over 50 bullet shells at the scene that they traced to a single assault rifle, as well as a magazine which had both a fingerprint and a DNA sample.
In May, Awawde was arrested at his house in the West Bank village of Idna near Hebron, by a team from the police anti-terror unit YAMAM. Officers circled his house and ordered him to surrender. He complied and did not resist, police said Monday.
But in April 14, Awawde killed Mizrahi as he drove with his wife Hadas and four of their five children to the Kiryat Arba settlement for the seder. Mizrahi’s eight-year old son was lightly wounded in the attack, as was a nine-year old boy in another vehicle.
Deputy Maj.-Gen. Baruch Mizrahi, 47 served in the investigation and intelligence unit of the police, He was also a lieutenant colonel in the IDF reserves, and served in the “8200” unit of the Military Intelligence Directorate AMAN.
Police said Monday that Mizrahi was instrumental in helping improve the signals intelligence capabilities of police, advancements that they said have proved fruitful in the battle against organized crime.
Awawde had been sentenced to life in prison in 1993 for killing Palestinians he accused of collaborating with Israel. He was one of 1,027 prisoners released by Israel in exchange for captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit in October 2011.
Their release was conditioned on a pledge that they not engage in terror.
The news drew condemnation from the very MKs who brokered the prisoner release by the past government, allowing the man to go free.
MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), who advocates the death penalty for convicted terrorists, said “the Schalit deal was a terrible mistake that cost us much human life. The problem with these agreements is that the public sees only those who are saved, and not those who will be killed because of the deals.”
Chairman of the governing coalition, MK Yariv Levine (Likud Beytenu) said that “the capture of a murderer released in the Schalit deal is a warning sign for any future deal.”
He added that Israel must change its policies regarding people convicted of terrorism, so that “murders and kidnappings will cost the entire Palestinian public a heavy price.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Likud-Beytenu) said that “if there’s something we’ve learned over the years, it’s that every release of murderous terrorists not only encourages new murderers but also returns to terrorism those same people who swore never to return to it.”
MK Orit Struk of the Bayit Yehudi Party said that the arrest “proves again that releasing terrorists causes terrorism.”
She called for rearresting all convicted terrorists released by Israel, regardless of if they violated the terms of their release or not. She called for support of a bill that would ban future releases of convicted killers as part of prisoner exchanges.
On Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered the IDF to demolish Awawde’s home.
Tovah Lazaroff and JPost staff contributed to this report.
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