'A Mistake, Not Murder' They Say in Shibli

The Shibli family of the Bedouin village Shibli is overwhelmed by grief, shock and especially anger. The family has not yet taken in the disaster that befell them on Yom Kippur eve when their son ran over and killed a 9-year-old girl from the neighboring community.

Assad Shibli, 20, crashed an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) into Tal Zino in Kfar Tavor, killing her. He was arrested immediately and the Northern District Attorney's Office and police have have declared him a murder suspect.

Residents in Kfar Tavor say Shibli drove the ATV recklessly and crashed into Zino deliberately. Shibli, however, says he was attacked by people when he was drawing money from the ATM. They hurled stones and fruit at him, and he hit Zino as he tried to flee from them, he said.

"My son is no murderer. He's not even close," Nassim Shibli said yesterday. "I don't want my son back tomorrow. He made a mistake and must pay the price. But that's a far cry from accusing him of murder."

The family and village were shocked and shaken after the assault by the neighboring Jewish communities, which seemed to undermine to good relations between them.

"We've been turned into terrorists. They've turned our son into a nationalist terrorist. They forgot that all our life we were loyal to the state. We didn't send terrorists but soldiers and many of them died," said Assad uncle, Akram Shibli.

"Assad's uncle guarded Kfar Tavor for years. Assad's father guards in Shadmot (a neighboring community) to this day. What nationalists are we?"

Kfar Tavor calls it terror

The head of the Lower Galilee Regional Council Moti Dotan told Haaretz yesterday that he sees the event as a "terror attack."

"Yom Kippur is the Jewish nation's holiest day. When a resident of the village next door enters the synagogue area provocatively and runs over a child, to me that's a terror attack," he said.

Shibli's father sits with red, swollen eyes after long sleepless nights.

"I did not raise a murderer," he said.

"You know how hard it is to raise a child today, to look after him so he doesn't go astray, to reach an age when he can help me in the family business. My children lacked nothing. In the end they tell me my son is a murderer. My son grew up in a warm home. Recently he worked in Tel Aviv because he wanted to experience life, to gain experience ... he wanted to return to the village only after our holiday (Eid el Fitr). But after talking to his mother, who wanted to see him, he got on the bus and came back."

He said Assad helped him with the family beehive business.

The Shiblis talk of a 100 years of good neighborly relations between them and Kfar Tavor: work, farming, commerce and a joint history on the verge of collapse.

"We fear the region will catch fire. All kinds of people are using the incident for incitement," Shibli said.

Local Council head Abed Alslalem Shibli said the incident reeks of racism.

"Last summer a four-year-old girl was run over by an ATV driver and was in critical condition. The police did not open a case in that matter. When an Arab runs over a Jew it's murder. We hear on the local radio stations racist declarations of people in the area, accusing our entire village, trying to make political gains," he said.

"All year round our children are in danger of being run over by ATVs and the police do nothing. Only after the Kfar Tavor incident, suddenly they confiscated ATVs and questioned drivers without licenses," he said.