'Zada killers dealt blow to rule of law'

Shfaram residents to fight indictment of 12 Israeli Arabs over 2005 lynching of AWOL soldier, Zada.

zada suspect 298 (photo credit: Gai Nitzani, Israel Police)
zada suspect 298
(photo credit: Gai Nitzani, Israel Police)
The head of a committee established in Shfaram after four people were murdered in cold blood by an Israeli soldier on a public bus there, said Sunday that city residents would continue to fight until the state dropped its plans to indict 12 suspects in the subsequent killing of the soldier. "We are continuing our struggle," Ahmed Hamdi, head of the "Popular Committee to Mark the Massacre in Shfaram," told The Jerusalem Post. Earlier in the day, the state prosecution had informed the suspects through letters that it was considering pressing charges against them, adding that they were entitled to a hearing and that a final decision would be made only afterwards. In a statement to the press, the prosecution said the 12 were not suspected of murder but faced charges of assault and violence with varying degrees of gravity. Whatever the charges, Shfaram residents were unhappy to hear about the prosecution's move. Adel Turki, who lost his two daughters Dina and Hazar in the bus attack, said the men who killed the soldier were just acting in self defense and should not be indicted. "If the [terrorist suspect] had been Arab, it doesn't matter from where, from the territories, from Gaza, from Shfaram, it doesn't matter, and he came to an Israeli neighborhood, and he killed four people, what would they have done to him? They would have killed him, destroyed his house. The government should be ashamed," he said. The killings took place on August 4, 2005, when Eden Natan-Zada, 19, a soldier who had gone AWOL, boarded a bus in Haifa and opened fire on the passengers when it reached the Druse neighborhood in Shfaram. He killed the bus driver and three passengers and wounded several others. According to the state prosecution and media reports documenting the incident, Natan-Zada was taken into custody on the bus by police and handcuffed while trying to reload his weapon. The police tried to drive the bus with the killer inside, but an angry mob of thousands of Shfaram residents that had gathered around would not let them proceed. Some of the police exited the bus and several protesters were then able to reach Natan-Zada and start beating him. He was allegedly killed by members of the mob that had broken into the bus. The police investigated the killing for 10 months. In June 2006 they arrested seven suspects including Arkan Kurbaj (22), Munir Zaqqout (22), Nu'aman Bahouth (32), Basel Qadarieh (30), Haitham Harb (28), Jamil Saffouri (43), and Fadi Saffouri (26). All seven were among the dozen who were told on Sunday that the state was considering indicting them, pending a hearing. Three of the suspects are Muslim, three Druse and one Christian. The identities of the remaining five suspects are not known at this time. According to Hamdi, none of the suspects were involved in the killing of Natan-Zada. "There is no proof," he said. "There were police on the bus. I didn't see a single protester on board." He said the affair was typical of the problems faced by the Arab sector. The police didn't find enough evidence to arrest a single policeman involved in the killings of 12 Israeli Arabs and one Palestinian during the riots [in the Galilee] in October 2000, Hamdi said. But when it came to the killing of a Jew who had massacred four Arabs and wounded others, the police could find enough evidence, he added.