Yiftah Mor-Yosef 248 88.
(photo credit: Channel 2)
A stray bullet fired by a gunman on a motorcycle, intended for a criminal sitting on a street bench in Ramle, struck a 17-year-old yeshiva student on Wednesday night, mortally wounding and eventually killing him.
The victim, Yiftah Mor-Yosef, was sitting next to a 36-year-old man - the intended target - and sustained a gunshot wound to the head. The man was moderately wounded in the attack.
Both gunshot victims were rushed to the Assaf Harofeh Hospital in Tzrifin, with Yosef in critical condition. Doctors battled to save his life for several hours, but he eventually succumbed to his wounds.
"This was an attempted assassination as part of an ongoing criminal war," a police source involved in the murder investigation told The Jerusalem Post.
"The shooting was related to a struggle between crime gangs over drugs and money. This poor kid, who had no connection to the criminals, was mowed down by a stray bullet," the detective said.
"We believe this is connected to local crime groups. We have a number of leads," the detective added.
A media ban on the investigation prohibits the publication of further details on the shooting.
"This is a horrible and shocking incident," the source said. "We view it with the utmost severity, and we will do all we can to bring the perpetrator to justice."
The remains of orange police crime-scene tape tied to the green bench where Mor-Yosef sat was all that was left to mark the shooting on Thursday afternoon. Earlier, dozens of Mor-Yosef's friends held a candle-lit vigil near the bench.
"The Mor-Yosef family is well-known and respected in Ramle," Shlomo Sror, a family friend and the manager of the Golani local community center, told the Post.
"Yiftah took part in a range of social activities for kids and teenagers at the center, and he also taught a number of Torah classes," he added.
"He was a very impressive person. Very sociable. He was always looking to help young people," Sror recalled. "He was like an angel when he walked into the room. He was a good boy. This is very difficult. He was one of the best."
Sror added, "This is a day of mourning for us. All of Ramle is in mourning. Even the mayor, Yoel Levi, called to express his condolences. I don't understand why this happened. Ramle has recently improved. Education is better, and Arab Jewish relations are good. The city was getting better. We never dreamed something like this would happen."
Sror described the scene at the hospital the previous night, when Mor-Yosef's family and friends had prayed desperately for his recovery.
"His father and mother prayed and recited psalms. At 1 a.m., the doctors came and said this was a critical time. They said if Yiftah survived the next few hours, chances were that he would make it. We thought of bringing head injury experts in from other hospitals. We were praying for a miracle," Sror said.
A friend of Mor-Yosef posted a harrowing description of the youth's final hours on a Hebrew social networking Web site.
"When I came in, you didn't stop bleeding. You fought death for eight hours. Ten blood transfusions. You were covered with bandages. Your eyes were wide open, your hands lay at your sides, you were hooked up to a ventilator, unconscious, and your mother was sitting, crying and praying," the friend wrote. "The hardest part was when your father whispered in your ear, saying, 'I know what you're going through. Don't let them win, Yiftah. Overcome them,' while crying."