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Two Israel Defense Forces officers and three civilians were arrested in Kfar Yona yesterday after they allegedly opened fire at a car and beat its occupants with clubs.

The targets were a newspaper deliveryman and his 16-year-old son, whom the suspects thought were burglars.

The incident began at 4 A.M. yesterday, when Kfar Yona resident Meir Levi and his son Avigad began delivering newspapers.

When Levi stopped his car to let his son deliver a paper to one house, the five suspected assailants attacked him.

"The attackers started shouting at them in Arabic to stop, ran up to the car and began beating it with clubs," said Chief Superintendent Peretz Ratzon, deputy commander of the Netanya police. "The newspaper deliveryman and his son began driving away, but the group began chasing them in their own vehicle, shouting 'Wakef'" - Arabic for "stop."

"One of them then opened fired at the car, shattering its windshield. It's a miracle they didn't wound them, or worse," said Ratzon.

Levi called the police as he and his son fled, and a unit arrived just as the car stalled and the suspects began attacking it again.

"They were just berserk, the policemen had to pry the clubs and guns from their hands and unload the guns before they stopped beating them. It's unclear how they didn't notice this was just a delivery guy," a senior police officer said.

The alleged attackers were detained and brought to the police station in Netanya, and the two officers, who serve with elite units, were later transferred to the Military Police's Criminal Investigation Department. All five were later released to house arrest.

Police said they told investigators they decided to take action against burglars, and mistook the deliveryman and his son for thieves. Police sources said they believed they would be indicted on offenses including aggravated assault and misuse of firearms.

"Even if they thought they were burglars, they shouldn't have fired so quickly, especially if they are army officers aware of firing instructions," an officer said.

A family member of one of the suspects said yesterday they were "sorry for an incident that involved someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. These were local residents with families who were seeking to restore security and quiet after several break-ins in the town."