Israel probes Hizbullah link to attack

Dichter: Deport Arabs who take part in terror; PM: Efforts to make our lives unbearable won't succeed.

avi dichter 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
avi dichter 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Security officials are investigating whether Hizbullah was involved in Thursday night's massacre at a Jerusalem yeshiva, amid uncertainty over which terror group was responsible for the attack, officials said over the weekend. Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter on Friday called for the expulsion to the West Bank of Arabs living in east Jerusalem who are involved in terrorism. "We need to find a legal and legitimate way to kick out those few Palestinian Arabs in east Jerusalem who make it their choice to aid and take part in terrorism back to Ramallah," Dichter said. The attack that left eight seminary students dead - all but one between the ages of 15 and 19 - was carried out by Ala Abu Dhaim, 25, from the east Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber. The victims included a 16-year-old American citizen, Avraham David Moses, from Efrat, whose parents had immigrated to Israel in the 1990s, and a 15-year-old French citizen, Segev Peniel Avihail, from Neveh Daniel. The other students killed were Neria Cohen, 15, from Jerusalem; Yonatan Yitzhak Eldar, 16, from Shilo; Yochai Lifshitz, 18, from Jerusalem; Ro'i Roth, 18, from Elkana; Yehonadav Haim Hirschfeld, 19, from Kochav Hashahar; and Doron Meherete, 26, from Ashdod. There is a direct connection between the terrorist attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva and the Gazan rocket attacks on communities in the South, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Saturday evening: both were meant to make Israelis' lives unbearable. But these efforts would not succeed, Olmert added. "Just as we created deterrence against the Arab states and Hizbullah - which has not dared to attack us for a year-and-a-half - we will do so with the terrorist organizations," he said. "The terrorist knew where to go, and who to hit - our nation's finest, who are fueled by their sense of responsibility to the people and the land. He killed eight students in cold blood, in a place where we believed no harm would come to any Jew," Olmert said. "Mercaz Harav was somewhat of a home to me for many years, a place to get to know the salt of the earth people, from which the future leaders of religious Zionism grow," the prime minister said. "Our fight for survival continues day by day, hour by hour. When it will end, we do not know. But we will prevail," he concluded. Abu Dhaim sprayed the library at the prestigious Mercaz Harav Yeshiva with hundreds of rounds of automatic weapons live fire before being shot dead by an off-duty IDF officer and student of the yeshiva who lived nearby. As a resident of Jerusalem, the attacker enjoyed freedom of movement in Israel. Israeli security officials said over the weekend that they believed the terrorist received outside support for the attack. A previously unknown Lebanon-based group, the "Martyrs of Imad Mughniyeh" - named after the senior Hizbullah commander killed in Damascus last month - claimed responsibility, Hizbullah's Al-Manar satellite TV station reported. Hizbullah officials in Lebanon denied involvement in the attack. Hamas, which originally took credit for the shooting, later backtracked, and said it had nothing to do with the attack. Jerusalem police chief Cmdr. Aharon Franco said Abu Dhaim carried out surveillance at the site ahead of the attack. There was no security guard at the section of the yeshiva that the terrorist entered, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. Security officials are investigating how the assailant got his weapon. Over the weekend, police arrested eight Arab residents of east Jerusalem, including family members of Abu Dhaim, to determine whether they were involved in the attack, police said. Although the majority of Jerusalem's 250,000 Arab residents have stayed on the sidelines of Palestinian terrorism, most major attacks in the capital were carried out with the support of a local accomplice. There have been several east Jerusalem-based terror cells in the past; one was behind a particularly lethal wave of bombings in the city and nationwide, including the attack at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem cafeteria in July 2002 that killed nine people. After four years without a major terror attack in the capital, Thursday night's killings brought back an all-too-familiar sense of vulnerability. Armed with an assault rifle and a pistol, Abu Dhaim walked through the seminary's main gate and entered the library, where witnesses said around 80 students were studying. He openly sprayed them with hundreds of bullets, leaving a trail of destruction, including blood-drenched holy books and prayer shawls littered on the floor. As students ducked for cover, some jumping out of windows to escape, and one frantically calling rescue services in a hushed whisper, the terrorist pumped additional bullets into wounded students before he was himself killed, witnesses said. Police later found the gunman's vehicle nearby. The attack came days after 48 hours of sporadic rioting throughout east Jerusalem over last week's clashes in Gaza. Franco said there had been no intelligence alerts of an impending attack, but that Jerusalem remained "the No. 1 target" of Palestinian terrorists. Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen said Friday that police viewed the attack as a "single incident," and did not think that the country was about to face a "third intifada." On Friday, Muslim prayers ended without incident on the Temple Mount after police restricted the entry of males to those aged 45 and over. Jerusalem remained on heightened alert for the start of the work week on Sunday.