Settler shoots dead 4 Palestinians near W. Bank settlement
A West Bank settler yesterday shot to death four Palestinians with whom he worked and wounded two others, one of them seriously.
Three of the dead men were Mohammed Mansour, 48, and Bassam Tauase, 30, both from the Nablus region, and Halil Salah, 42, from Qalqilya. The name of the fourth victim, who died later of his wounds, was not available at press time.
The killer, Asher Weissgan, a 38-year-old resident of Shvut Rahel, was overpowered by a security guard at the scene and taken to the police station where he was arrested. In a preliminary investigation, he refused to explain his motives but claimed there was no connection between his action and the disengagement plan.
The incident took place just after 5 P.M. in the industrial area of the West Bank settlement of Shiloh. Weissgan, a driver, was preparing to transport Palestinian workers from the industrial zone back to their homes at the end of the day's work, as he did daily. At the gate, he stopped the vehicle and went to ask the security guard for a glass of water.
Weissgan told police that he then wrested the guard's gun from him at knifepoint and shot dead two of the men who were in the vehicle. Others at the scene said Weissgan had used a gun in his own possession.
It is believed Weissgan then drove the van with the bodies toward the aluminum factory and ran into the changing room, where he shot at three other Palestinian workers, killing one of them.
Yesterday evening there were still large pools of blood outside the guard's booth and alongside the factory where apparently the victims ran.
A military ambulance team rushed to the scene and administered medical aid. Three of the men were declared dead on the spot and the injured were taken to Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Karem quarter, where one later died from his wounds. The other man, Ruhi Qassam, sustained moderate injuries.
Security forces are currently preparing for possible riots in Palestinian areas in the territories. Hamas has threatened revenge for the shooting, which is the second Jewish terror attack in two weeks.
However, sources in Hamas told Haaretz last night that it was still committed to the current cease-fire, but that they would not be able to continue restraint in the face of repeated Jewish terror attacks.
"We are in favor of quiet and continue to be committed to it but will not permit it to be unilateral," said Sheikh Hassan Yusef, a senior Hamas official in the West Bank. But Sami Abu Zohari, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, warned that retaliation would follow.
Residents of Shiloh and neighboring Shvut Rahel condemned the murder. "This is a grotesque act. We want good neighborly relations," said Amihai Braverman, head of the Shilo council.
Senior IDF officers said this condemnation was insufficient and that they expected the settlers' rabbis to make a strong statement. The officers said they had spoken to the rabbi of Shvut Rahel, Ben-Zion Amar, but that he had not yet issued a condemnation. "It is time for the settler leadership to assume responsibility. This is the second time in two weeks that a settler from the area has murdered innocent people," the officers said.
Palestinian Authority spokesman Saeb Erekat also condemned the attack and urged the Israeli government to bring the perpetrator to justice immediately. He called on the Palestinians not to act in a way that would derail the pullout.
Families of the injured Palestinians said last night that Weisgan had known his victims well and even knew some of their relatives.