A far-right activist who was AWOL from his army unit murdered four Israeli Arabs and wounded 12 on Thursday evening when he opened fire while riding in an Egged bus in the northern city of Shfaram. He was then lynched by an angry mob.
The shooter, identified as Eden Tzuberi (also known as Natan Zada), 19, of the Samaria settlement of Tapuah, had deserted his IDF unit and was on Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) watch lists. Despite this, Shin Bet sources said no warnings had been received regarding plans by Tzuberi or other Jewish extremists to target the Israeli-Arab sector.
Among the victims were two adolescent girls and the driver of the bus. The shooter also directed his fire outside the bus, and casualties included pedestrians and bystanders.
A furious mob of local residents stormed the No. 165 bus, which was traveling through a Druse neighborhood, and attacked Tzuberi, kicking him and throwing metal objects and bottles at him.
Police, who according to eyewitness accounts arrived late, surrounded the bus and tried to stop the angry crowd, but to no avail. The rioters got on the bus and killed the shooter. Five policemen were also injured in the clashes.
Yekutiel Ben-Ya'acov, the founder of the Jewish Legion, a far-right defense group based in Tapuah, said: 'We will be stepping up our efforts to do everything in our power to stop the disengagement, which was his will and testament. And we will demand justice for Eden.'
Associates of Tzuberi's said he had deserted the military 'since he could not bring himself to serve in an army that expels Jews from their homes.' They said Tzuberi recently became religious and had left his home in Rishon Letzion to move to Tapuah, a known right-wing extremist hotbed.
The scene of the attack looked like a terror attack, with bus windows shattered and policemen with plastic gloves fingerprinting bodies on the floor. Blood stained some of the seats on the bus and a policeman standing near one of the bodies appealed with a megaphone to the angry mob of thousands to calm down.
A statement issued by the army said Tzuberi, known to the army as Cpl. Eden Natan Zada, went AWOL from the army in mid-June. Since then, officials have been in touch with his family in an effort to find him and return him to service. Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, who condemned the attack, ordered an investigation into how the soldier still had an IDF-issued weapon in his possession.
Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra called the shooting a 'terrible terror attack' and appealed for calm among Israeli Arabs. Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi warned from the scene that the killing could lead to further violence.
Police went on high alert Thursday night and called up all available personnel to the North. Security forces were deployed to the North from the South, Jerusalem and the West Bank.
An enraged witness to the incident said, 'If this attack had occurred in a Jewish neighborhood and the attacker were Arab, he would have been killed immediately. The police came and they didn't do anything!
'The police didn't even shoot the attacker - they were holding him alive on the bus,' he added.
Twelve people were wounded, four of them moderately, in the shooting, Rambam Medical Center deputy director-general Prof. Zvi Ben-Yishai said. Most of the injuries on the bus were due to burns and cuts from shattered glass.
Ben-Ya'acov said he knew Tzuberi as 'a soft-spoken [and] very pious Jew,' adding that Tzuberi was 'very interested in Judaism. He was a very special soul.'
'We hope Eden's death will not have been in vain,' said Ben-Ya'acov, 'and that his murder will derail this sadistic disengagement plan.' He demanded a police investigation of the shooter's murder by the crowd,
Ben-Ya'acov called Tzuberi 'the first casualty of the disengagement, which is tearing part the nation of Israel.'
While the far-Right gingerly hailed Tzuberi as a hero, the mainstream settlement movement condemned the act and was 'shocked by the act in Shfaram that took the lives of innocents,' according to a statement released by the Council of Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
Dr. Ghazi Hamid, editor of the Hamas weekly Al-Risala, said Hamas 'is committed to the withdrawal and will not respond to this incident.'
Hebron spokesman David Wilder said 'people do not believe that going out and shooting people is the answer to our questions. The proof of that is that people don't go out and do it.'
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich contributed to the report.