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The wife and six-year-old son of convicted Jewish terrorist Ami Popper were killed Wednesday night when the car he was driving collided head-on with one full of tourists on the Arava Highway, 50 km. north of Eilat, police said.
Five others were injured - two seriously - including Popper's two other children. The identities of those in the second vehicle were not released to the press.
Popper, who was on a 48-hour furlough from prison, was moderately injured, while his son was pronounced dead at the scene. His wife, Sarah, 42, an American-born social worker affiliated with the Kahane Chai movement, was killed instantly.
Popper is serving 40 years at Ma'asiyahu Prison near Ramle. He was originally given seven life sentences - one for each of the seven Palestinian laborers he gunned down near Rishon Lezion on May 20, 1990.
The initial investigation suggests the three Popper children were sitting in the backseat without seat belts. Police said they believed that Ami Popper had been distracted by his children, causing him to veer into oncoming traffic.
Popper's driving license expired in 1999, police said.
According to traffic authorities, one of the vehicles, most likely Popper's, made a sudden move into oncoming traffic just before 9:30 p.m., causing "one of the more horrific accidents we have seen... completely unnecessary." Magen David Adom medics treated casualties as firefighters extracted others from the wreckage. Two helicopters evacuated the most seriously injured to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.
After completing the first 10 years of his sentence, Popper was allowed furloughs. He reportedly left the prison grounds more than 120 times since 2000.
A police representative said that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Services), and not the Israel Prisons Service, was responsible for approving the frequency and durations of Popper's furloughs.
The Shin Bet referred questions about the accident to the Prime Minister's Office.
Ami Popper's shooting rampage rocked the nation and still resonates 16 years later. Popper, 21 at the time, arrived at the Rose Garden Junction between Rishon Lezion and Ness Ziona with an IDF-issued rifle that he had stolen from his younger brother. He lined up Arab workers at the junction, and even stopped a car with West Bank plates, making the passengers join the lineup that he then raked with gunfire, stopping several times to reload.
Seven people were killed and 10 were wounded in the attack, and riots broke out across the territories, leading to additional Palestinian deaths from IDF fire.
Following his arrest, Popper told police he shot the men after his girlfriend left him, only to say later that he was raped by an Arab during his childhood and had acted out of shame and a desire for revenge.