Mofaz: Oleg Shaichat Was Killed in Cold Blood

Corporal Oleg Shaichat, who went missing last Monday, was found yesterday, buried in an olive grove between the Arab villages of Kafr Kana and Mashad, northeast of Nazareth.

Corporal Oleg Shaichat, who went missing last Monday, was found yesterday, buried in an olive grove between the Arab villages of Kafr Kana and Mashad, northeast of Nazareth.

Shaichat, 20, was abducted at the Beit Rimon Junction and taken to a nearby field, where he was murdered for nationalist motives, police said. It is not clear whether he was murdered by Israeli Arabs or Palestinians.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Shaichat was killed "in cold blood" shortly after he was abducted.

A retired tracker found Shaichat's body after six days of searches in which hundreds of police and volunteers participated.

"Not far from here, they found something that belonged to the soldier," said Salah Al Haib, 67, who found the body. "I had a hunch he was in the area. I took two volunteers, a driver and a soldier, and we began combing the site. Suddenly, one of the volunteers who was walking 20-30 meters ahead of me, called me and said there was a shallow hole in the ground. I saw weeds had been put on it to conceal it. Immediately, I told the driver to start digging, realizing the soldier was there."

The police investigators arrived almost instantaneously and took out Shaichat's body. His gun was missing, apparently taken by his murderers. Shaichat's body was taken to the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir for autopsy.

Oleg's family - his father Anisim, his mother Olga and his brother Adam, who immigrated with Oleg from Ukraine in 1995 - were waiting tensely when the bitter news arrived. Upper Nazareth Mayor Menahem Ariav was with the family in their apartment in the Har Yona quarter to ensure all their needs were met.

At 1 P.M. Israel Defense Forces representatives arrived with a Russian translator. As soon as Olga saw them, she said, "I see you have not come to bring me good tidings." After hearing the official announcement, she collapsed on the floor, her cries rending the air and the hearts of everyone there: "My son, he had not seen anything in his life yet," she cried.

Then the family cloistered itself in the apartment and asked to be left alone.

Later Adam went down to the reporters and thanked the hundreds of policemen, soldiers and volunteers who searched for his brother.

"We've received the worst news possible, and it was a great shock," he said. "I want to thank everyone who helped."

Major Ronen, Oleg's commander said Oleg was the kind of soldier every commander wished for. "A cultured guy who helped new soldiers in the unit but also did volunteer work with Southern Lebanese Army children in one of the schools. It was clear beyond a doubt that when he didn't show up at the place and hour he said he would, that something had happened to him."

At the police's request, Nazareth Magistrate's Court banned publication of most details of the crime, including the body's condition, the investigators assessment of the time of death and other details.

"This is definitely a murder for nationalist motives, but whether it was Israeli Arabs or Palestinians remains open," Police Northern District Commander Major General Ya'akov Borovsky said. "We concentrated on this area because we found certain items in it indicating that Oleg was resourceful and wanted to lead us to his whereabouts."

Security sources said yesterday the Shin Bet and police have no intelligence pointing to Oleg's murderers. The inquiry will probably focus on the possible involvement of Israeli Arabs due to the proximity of the body to Arab communities in Galilee and the relative distance from the territories.

It is possible the kidnappers were operating on instructions from Palestinian terror organizations. In the past two years, the security services captured several cells of Israeli Arabs who planned or carried out attacks under instruction from the territories or Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The investigators assume the murderers intended to kidnap Shaichat and not to murder him straight away. Perhaps something went wrong as a result of the soldier's resistance. His belongings, found thrown not far from where he was buried, indicate he had scattered them to help searchers find and rescue him. The army trains soldiers to do that in such

circumstances.

The Shin Bet still has alerts about intentions to abduct soldiers and civilians to bargain for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

On Sunday afternoon, a senior police officer said he believed the search would last many days longer. The rapid end of the search yesterday, contrary to expectations, was to a large extent accidental, yet proved the advantage of thoroughly combing for items on the ground, police sources said.

Knesset members from across the political spectrum, including Arab ones, sharply denounced Shaichat's murder.

MK Abdulmalik Dhamshe of the United Arab List, a resident of Kafr Kana, said, "The villagers are praying the murderers did not come from among them." He said the residents are shocked, and some of them took part in the searches. "I grieve for the family. I deeply hope there will be no more murders like that in the future." His faction called the murder "inhuman" and its leader, Talab al-Sana, called on the public not to blame the entire Arab community for the soldier's murder.

The Hadash party denounced the killing, saying it is a crime that severely harms both Jews and Arabs. Party leader Mohammed Barakeh said those responsible for the murder must be caught and brought to trial.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom vowed that Israel would find Shaichat's killers and bring them to justice.

MK Arye Eldad of the National Union demanded the death penalty for the soldier's murderers, for only the death penalty could prevent further murders. MK Gila Finkelstein, of the National Religious Party, called on the cabinet to revoke its decision to release Palestinian prisoners who belong to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.