Three Israelis were murdered early yesterday morning by Palestinian terrorists who infiltrated the Karmei Tzur settlement in the West Bank. One terrorist was killed and the other was wounded, but managed to escape. Preliminary Israel Defense Forces investigations suggest the responses of some troops on the scene may have been flawed.
In another incident late last night, four Israelis were wounded, two seriously and two moderately, in an exchange of gunfire with a Palestinian gunmen who approached the outpost guarding the Yitzhar settlement south of Nablus. One of the Israelis was reported in serious condition, while the other three suffered moderate injuries. At press time, the IDF was still conducting a search of the area and it was not clear if more than one Palestinian was involved in the attack.
Israeli security sources last night said the IDF can be expected to operate on Palestinian Authority lands in response to recent terror attacks, but these actions may not occur immediately. The sources anticipate IDF activity in Hebron and Ramallah, and other cities in the West Bank.
The three Israelis murdered in the Karmei Tzur attack were Staff Sgt. Eyal Shorek, 23, his wife Yael, from Karmei Tzur, and First Sgt. Major Shalom Mordechai, 35, from Nahariya. Yael Shorek was nine months pregnant.
The two terrorists infiltrated the settlement, located in the southern Gush Etzion region, before dawn yesterday. They reached a cluster of 15 caravan homes in Karmei Tzur's southern side - the caravan neighborhood is not closed off by a fence. The terrorists apparently set out from the area of the nearby Palestinian town, Halhul. Two soldiers from an artillery unit identified the intruders, and demanded that they stop. The terrorists opened fire on them. The soldiers, who have yet to complete basic training, apparently did not follow combat procedures, and failed to charge the assailants. It is not clear whether they fired shots at the Palestinians.
The terrorists split up, and raced toward the caravan homes. Eyal Shorek was shot when he left his caravan, holding a firearm, his head was also hit with an axe. His wife was also shot dead. A reservist unit arrived on the scene and killed the terrorist who had murdered the Shorek couple. Mordechai was mortally wounded in this gunfight and another three IDF reservists and two settlers, were hurt. One of the injured Israelis was listed in serious condition yesterday, the others did not sustain serious injuries. They were treated at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Kerem and Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
The second terrorist was wounded and fled the scene, apparently taking Eyal Shorek's gun.
Oren Avitan, 33, an IDF medic (res.) from Yokne'am, was in an IDF jeep with Shalom Mordechai at the time of the attack. He said yesterday, "We heard about the infiltration at Karmei Tzur and we raced there - we knew the general location of the terrorist, but the terrorist apparently ambushed us. He saw us coming, but didn't shoot. The moment Shalom opened the jeep's door, the terrorist opened fire. Shalom was hit by bullets in the stomach, I was wounded in the leg. I pulled Shalom toward me, he didn't stop bleeding. `I don't want to die,' he said. `Take care of the children.'"
Shalom Mordechai, from Nahariya, worked for Bezeq, was married, and had two sons, aged five and nine. He lived near his parents in Nahariya, where he was born. He had three siblings.
Hamas operatives in the Hebron area were behind the Karmei Tzur attack. They might have been assisted by Islamic Jihad men. Yesterday's attack was preceded by intelligence warnings about possible terror attacks against West Bank settlements. These warnings remain in effect.
The IDF commander in the southern West Bank area, Brigadier General Amos Ben-Avraham, yesterday said it was unclear whether a fence protecting the caravan cluster would have prevented the terror attack.
Ben-Avraham added that in principle the IDF supports the construction of fences around settlements. The caravan homes were set up at the site more than a year ago, without legal permits. The neighborhood is named after Dr. Shmuel Gillis, and Karmei Tzur settler who was killed in a shooting attack.
MK Michael Eitan (Likud), a member of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, yesterday said the Karmei Tzur attack proves the security fence now planned by Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer ought to revised. Instead of the fence being constructed along the Green Line, Eitan said, it should be used to fence off terror in "A" lands in the territories.
Funerals for Eyal and Yael Shorek will be held today at 10 A.M. at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.