Jewish Terrorist Kills Four on Bus in Arab Town

Mob kills shooter, a newly religious Kach activist who deserted IDF to protest pullout.

A Jewish Israeli man in an Israel Defense Forces uniform opened fire on passengers on a bus in a Druze neighborhood of the Israeli Arab town of Shfaram on Thursday afternoon, killing four people and wounding 12. The terrorist was killed by a mob that boarded the bus after the shooting.

The victims of the attack were identified as bus driver Michel Bahus, 56; passenger Nader Hayak, 55 and Hazar Turki, 23 and her 21-year-old sister Dina.

The attacker - Eden Natan-Zada, 19 - was a newly religious man, an IDF deserter from Rishon Letzion who recently moved to the West Bank settlement of Tapuah. He was an activist in the outlawed extreme-right Kach movement and went AWOL a month ago to protest the disengagement plan.

Natan-Zada's mother said Thursday night that the family had begged the IDF to take his gun away. (Click here for more)

The police sent hundreds of reinforcements to the north of Israel, fearing possible riots in Arab towns, similar to those in October 2000, in which 13 Arab citizens were killed.

Some of the officers were flown in from the Jerusalem and West Bank districts via IDF helicopters to reach the region as quickly as possible. The police force also began mobilizing patrol vehicles, water cannons, helicopters and mounted police to disperse any violent demonstrations.

In addition, the IDF raised the alert level in parts of the West Bank, as did jails holding Jewish and Arab prisoners in the same complex.

The Israeli Arab Follow-Up Committee announced a general strike to take place Friday and called for a protest rally in Nazareth.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, with Sharon calling it "a sinful act by a bloodthirsty terrorist."

Magen David Adom ambulances evacuated the wounded to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.

Avtihaj Salameh, a passenger on Egged bus 165 at the time of the shooting, said that when the bus, which set out from Haifa, entered Shfaram, the driver asked passengers to request that the man dressed in an army uniform come up to him. The driver asked the man if he hadn't made a mistake, and whether he really intended to reach Shfaram.

According to Salameh, the gunman stood by the driver for a few minutes. When the bus entered the Druze neighborhood, Salameh rang the bell signaling that she wanted to get off at the next stop, and stood by the rear door of the bus. She said that at that moment, the gunman, who was standing by the driver, opened fire inside the bus.

The shooting continued for more than five minutes, until youths, among them a security guard, arrived and subdued the gunman.

Shortly after the shooting, a mob boarded the bus and attacked Tzubeiri, killing him.

A resident of the neighborhood in which the shooting took place said there were 10-15 passengers on the bus at the time of the shooting. The witness said that when the shooting began, a mob approached the bus, but wasn't able to board it. The minute the gunman ran out of bullets and tried to switch magazines, the mob tackled him.

The mob kicked the gunman and hurled objects at him. Police officers surrounded the bus in an attempt to protect the gunman from the mob, but moved away when they thought the Lower Galilee residents were going to set the bus on fire. Five police officers were wounded by the mob.

Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi said police forces had been diverted to the south to deal with anti-pullout protestors, leaving the north of the country short-handed. "We have sent forces from the center, and those from the south who were supposed to be going home have now been diverted to the north," he said.

The settlement of Tapuah, where Natan-Zada lived, is one of the most extreme settlements, dominated by followers of U.S.-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, who believed in expelling Arabs from Israel and the West Bank. Kahane was assassinated in New York in 1990.

There have been several incidents of Jewish extremists attacking Arabs over the years, but rarely inside Israel. In 1990, an Israeli opened fire at a bus stop where Palestinians gathered for job placements, killing seven.

In 1994, Baruch Goldstein, an American-born settler, entered the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron and opened fire on Muslim worshippers, killing 29 - the bloodiest attack by a Jewish extremist against Palestinians.

The October 2000 riots erupted in the north of the country as the intifada was breaking out in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A commission of inquiry into the rioting was highly critical of the police and pointed to deep-seated feelings of discrimination among Israeli Arabs.