The motive behind a Jewish army deserter's shooting spree in an Arab town seven years ago was not investigated during a criminal probe of the incident, nor was the question of whether anything could have been done to the prevent the attack, the state admitted in its response to a request from the victims' families to reopen the investigation.
On August 4, 2005, days before Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip, a West Bank settler named Eden Natan Zada who reportedly went absent without leave several weeks earlier rather than take part in the disengagement, got on a bus near Haifa that was headed for Shfaram. When it reached the community he opened fire with his army rifle on his fellow passengers, killing four people and wounding dozens more.
An angry crowd of pedestrians stormed the bus and killed Natan Zada. Police launched separate investigations into his shooting spree and his subsequent death, but the families of Natan Zada's victims claimed the investigation of the first incident was superficial and flawed.
They asked the High Court of Justice to mandate a new investigation with a focus on whether Natan Zada, who had ties to extremist Jewish organizations, had accomplices. The petitioners also want to see all the material collected by the police and the Shin Bet security service.
To bolster their case the families submitted an opinion from a former senior defense official turned private investigator, arguing that Natan Zada could not have acted alone.
On Tuesday, the state asked the court to reject the petition, saying the Shin Bet had ruled out the possibility that Natan Zada had accomplices. The state also said that because the evidence gathered by the intelligence agency is classified the families have no right to see it. The state went on to argue that because Natan Zada is dead and cannot be prosecuted the questions of his motivation as well as his movements in the time leading up to the events were now irrelevant.
As for whether more could have been done to prevent Natan Zada from deserting from his Israel Defense Forces base with his rifle, the army has already conducted its own probe and learned the necessary lessons, the state said in its response.
Police conducted a separate investigation into Natan Zada's death, during which they questioned hundreds of suspects and witnesses. Thirteen residents of Shfaram were charged in connection to that incident in 2009, including seven who were charged with attempted murder. That trial is still underway.
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