Beersheba's district court on Sunday extended by four days the remand of a farm owner who killed a trespasser on his property. Police were looking into suspicions of murder, shooting in a residential area and using a gun without a license. On Saturday, the Negev farmer opened fire on four intruders, killing one of them. The farmer, sources said on Sunday, was now being investigated for suspected murder as a result of the shootings.
Editorial: The Wild South
Shai Dromi, the owner of Shai Farms in the northern Negev, was arrested for killing Khaled al-Atrash, 31, who police said had recently been released from prison after serving four years for agricultural theft. Al-Atrash had allegedly trespassed on Dromi's farm with three other Negev Beduin men.
According to the owner, the men arrived at the farm, poisoned a guard dog and broke a lock on one of Dromi's sheep pens. Dromi told detectives that a similar incident had occurred a month earlier.
Police and Border Police units were dispatched to Shai Farms after gunfire was reported in the area, and discovered the farmer attempting to resuscitate al-Atrash, who nevertheless died shortly thereafter. The second man arrived by ambulance in critical but stable condition at Soroka, hospital officials said.
Dromi told police that he had fired warning shots to scare off the suspected burglars after they entered the yard, and only later realized that he had hit two of them. The other two trespassers were apparently wounded, but managed to flee the scene. Police detained the farmer for further questioning.
"The burglar's death was expected, considering the police's helplessness in preventing agricultural thefts in the south," chairman of the Negev Development Council Shmuel Rifman said Saturday evening.
According to Rifman, there has been a dramatic increase in agricultural theft - from cattle to expensive equipment and copper tubing - in the Negev.
Rifman said an increase in detective work and intelligence would greatly help decrease agricultural theft by local Beduin, since only a few specific groups are thought to be responsible for a majority of the crimes. Meanwhile, Rifman said, farm owners could be expected to take steps to protect their livelihoods.
"Regrettably, with the constant agricultural crime, this was the first, but most likely will not be the last such incident," Rifman said.
Also on Sunday, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon called on Interior Security Minister Avi Dichter to introduce new alternatives to fighting the war against agricultural thefts in the Negev.
According to Simhon, the lives of the farmers on the periphery have "turned into hell" because of the need to defend their equipment in wide-open areas. "The country has abandoned the farmers, said Simhon.
Director of the Agriculture Ministry, Yael Shaltiali, is expected to meet with Dichter on Monday.
Dror's lawyer, Suzie Shalev, told Army Radio that her client had attempted to stop the intruders by shooting first in the air, but due to a mechanical problem with his weapon, the gun did not fire until he shot at their legs.
According to Shalev, Dror immediately called Meitar's security head.
"I understand that he is in trouble, but I'd like to know what his other options were," she said.