Two killed in brazen Petah Tikva drive-by shooting

Men gunned down in drive-by shooting in broad daylight across the street from a kindergarten; police suspect gangland hit.

June 27, 2013 15:02
3 minute read.
Cops at kindergarten next to Petach Tikvah drive by shooting that killed 2, looking for witnesses.

Petach Tikvah shooting. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

Youngsters were playing in the yard of their kindergarten during recess on Thursday when shots rang out meters away, part of a brazen drive-by shooting in Petah Tikva that killed two men and left a third seriously wounded.

Staff rushed the children inside, and within minutes, police were on the scene, investigating yet another gangland hit in central Israel.

Officers confirmed that one of the dead men, Eli Orkabi, 35, from Petah Tikva, had been the subject of investigations in the past. The other man slain was Eran Fartush, 42; and the wounded man was his partner in a local contracting firm.

Orkabi was killed 13 years after he stabbed a man to death at the Hilton Promenade in Tel Aviv during an argument over a beach chair.

He signed a plea bargain in the killing of Alon Michaeli, and served three years in prison for manslaughter.

The third victim, in his 40s, was hospitalized at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in the city. No arrests had been made by press time.

The midday shooting took place on a quiet, leafy residential street, but the short stretch is book-ended by an elementary school and two kindergartens.

At a small park next to the crime scene, a handful of family members of the victims cried and embraced each other.

Steps away, around a dozen Palestinian (from the West Bank) and Israeli construction workers looked on, chatting about the shooting that took the life of one of their employers and left another seriously wounded.

One of the workers, an Israeli from Jaljulya named Ahmed, said he had been speaking to his boss and his partner during a short break outside the building they were working in. He left the two men and went to the store to buy something to drink, and returned minutes later to see both men lying on the pavement with gunshot wounds.

Ahmed said the two partners had been talking to a man who lived on the seventh floor and was the target of the hit, a man well known to Central District Police. He added that the two contractors were probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and if he hadn’t left to go to the store, he probably would have ended up the same way.

He added that his boss, from Jaljulya, had brought his 13-year-old son to work on Thursday, but that he didn’t know where the boy went after the attack.

Another local described sitting on her balcony a few buildings away and hearing gunshots, and then seeing a man run down the street to a motorcycle and slip a pistol into his waistband before he and the driver fled the neighborhood.

Residents spoke about a lack of security and a feeling of vulnerability, saying that such killings have become a sort of routine recently.

Thursday’s attack was the latest in a series of shootings and bombings in Petah Tikva in the past six months. In April, a man was critically wounded when he was shot by a man on a motorcycle, and in February, a 26-year-old man was moderately wounded while sitting in his car. In December, a 44-year-old man known to police was killed by a bomb that was attached to his motorcycle.

One local who tried to calm parents down was Dr. Michal Ungar, the manager of the two kindergartens at the end of the street.

After the shooting, detectives walked around the yard of the nearby kindergarten, interviewing caretakers and trying to collect more witness testimony.

Ungar said that at the time of the attack the children were in the yard playing, and that when the shots rang out, the caretakers ran inside with the youngsters, shut the doors and waited for the police. The children were excited, but not panicked, she said.

Rami Hoffenberg, deputy head of the Petah Tikva education department, said the city had sent psychologists to the elementary school to speak to teachers about how to talk to pupils about the shooting, and that they would send letters to parents about it as well.

“We’ll keep following it up to make sure there aren’t children suffering from trauma,” Hoffenberg said.

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