Two Israeli security guards killed near Tulkarm

Attack should have been thwarted, defense officials say; terror infiltration drill held there last month.

shooting attack 224.88 (photo credit: )
shooting attack 224.88
(photo credit: )
Two Israeli security guards were shot dead by a Palestinian man at the entrance to the Nitzane Shalom Industrial Zone outside Tulkarm on Friday. IDF soldiers converged on the city over the weekend in search of the terrorist. Shimon Mizrachi, 53, from Bat Hefer and Eli Wasserman, 51, from Alfei Menashe, were pronounced dead at the scene by Magen David Adom personnel. Wasserman is to be laid to rest at 3 p.m. on Sunday at the Netanya cemetery, while Mizrachi was buried in Alfei Menashe on Friday. Military sources said the gunman came from Tulkarm and opened fire at the security guards as they were screening workers entering the industrial zone that straddles the Trans-Israel Highway (Route 6), just across from Tulkarm. He then fled back to Tulkarm. The shooting was clearly carried out by terrorists, IDF sources said, noting that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah's Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades all claimed responsibility for the attack. Last month, an exercise was held at the industrial zone that drilled the security guards for a terrorist infiltration, the sources said. The Nitzane Shalom complex was built in 1995, and houses nine factories that provide jobs to Palestinians. "The guards were drilled and they also outnumbered the lone gunman," a defense official said. On Sunday, the IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Israel Police will conduct a thorough probe into the attack. The initial IDF inquiry concluded that a third security guard fled the scene when the shooting began, while one of the slain men had left his gun in the trunk of his car. There were also reports that at least one of the guards was not wearing his bullet-proof vest. "The third security guard did not open fire at the terrorist," said Brig.-Gen. Noam Tivon, commander of the Judea and Samaria Division. "The way I see things, three armed security guards should have hit or caught the terrorists. The case will be investigated and we are determined to catch the gunman in the near future." Riad al-Malki, the Palestinian Authority's foreign minister, condemned the attack, saying it was meant "to undermine the efforts by the Palestinian government to undertake full security responsibilities in the West Bank." The shooting was also meant to embarrass PA President Mahmoud Abbas while he was in Washington for meetings with US officials, Malki said. MKs on the Right blamed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak for the attack. "The citizens of Israel are once again paying with their blood for the stupidity of their leaders. Responsibility for the deaths lies with everyone who made decisions to remove roadblocks, to give ammunition to the Palestinian Authority and to allow them freedom of movement. Whoever does not now guarantee the safety and security of the people of Israel is not fit to be prime minister or defense minister," said MK Arye Eldad of the National Union. Eldad's colleague in the National Union, MK Uri Ariel, said the attack was a continuation of the Arab tradition of biting the hand that feeds them. He said that just like earlier attacks at the Kerem Shalom, Nahal Oz and Karni crossings to Gaza, the Nitzanei Shalom attack proved that Arabs perceive any humanitarian assistance as weakness. President Shimon Peres on Friday condemned the acts of terror that he said created difficulties for the peace process and for coexistence. Peres was a guest of the Druse community near the grave of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. Murder leads to another murder and another and another, and achieves nothing, said Peres, adding that senseless bloodshed was an obstacle to peace. Nonetheless, if Israel were able to achieve peace with Egypt and Jordan, he said, he was confident that Israel could reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians and even with Damascus, "providing that the Syrians proceed toward peace in the proper manner." Expressing pride in the Druse community, the president invited its members to join in the peace effort. Sensitive to some of their frustrations, Peres said: "I pray with you that in the next decade we will know peace with full equality, full freedom and unity." Peres also paid a condolence call on the family of St.-Sgt. Sayef Bisan, the Druse soldier killed earlier this month in an ambush in Gaza. Greer Fay Cashman and Gil Hoffman contributed to this report