Alleged Burglar Shot, Killed by Shfela Homeowner

The Ramle Magistrates Court has released a man who shot and killed an intruder prior to his breaking into the man's home early Tuesday morning. According to reports, the homeowner had shot at a group of men outside his home and hit one of them, who died a few hours later in the hospital.

The homeowner was brought to court under a strict blanket of secrecy and a gag order is in effect on all details of the affair.

The incident began around 4:00 A.M. when a resident of a Shfela area community was awoken by voices near his home. When he stepped out of the house to investigate, he found a group of men who the police suspect were attempting to break into his home. The man said he feared for his life and that of his family, and shot at the suspected burglars with his pistol.

One intruder was wounded and the rest fled. Within minutes, police arrived along with a Magen David Adom ambulance, which evacuated the wounded man to Assaf Harofe Hospital where he died from his wounds. He was a 24-year-old West Bank resident with no valid permit to be in Israel and a criminal record.

The homeowner was brought to the Lod police station where he told investigators he acted in self defense.

He was later released after posting a NIS 20,000 bond and ordered not to leave the country for 60 days.

His father, a farmer, told Haaretz yesterday that "the problem is we are exposed, the law des not protect us, nor the police or the courts." The father also said he was worried the dead man's family would attempt to take revenge.

Neighbors complained yesterday that they have no protection and almost every night another house is broken into. The head of the Modiin Regional Council, Shimon Siso, called on Public Security Minister Avi Dichter (Kadima) to increase enforcement in the region and return a feeling of security to residents.

The shooting comes nearly four months after the Knesset approved a broad version of what is know as the "Shai Dromi law," which exempts anyone who kills or injures an intruder in his home, business or farm from criminal responsibility.

Dromi, a Negev farmer, shot and killed a man who broke into his property in January 2007. He was arrested and held for a prolonged period, indicted for manslaughter and is now under house arrest awaiting trial. In response, MKs Titzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Yisrael Katz (Likud) sponsored the law on defending property.

The law, passed last June, states: "A person shall not be held criminally responsible for an action that was immediately necessary to repel someone breaking into or entering a residence, place of business or fenced farm belonging to him or others."

Intruders are described as those "with the intention of perpetrating a crime, or someone trying to break in." The law expands the definition of self-defense to include those who fear imminent danger from intruders. However, the law does not apply in a case where the act of self-defense was "patently unreasonable," or in the event a provocation led to the break-in, but does provide penalties for someone who acts "unreasonably."

Politicians on both sides of the battle over the Dromi law said yesterday's fatal incident proved they were correct. "That is exactly what the law was intended to do," said MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu). "Three [intruders] came, and no one knows if they would have killed the resident," added Rotem.

Katz said the homeowner "acted properly." MK Moshe Sharoni (Pensioners), an enthusiastic supporter of the Dromi law, also said the incident again proves the necessity for the law and labeled the shooting as justified: "Every thief needs to know he is endangering [himself] and maybe this will stop his thieving."

MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz-Yahad), one of the chief opponents of the law, said the law exempted people from trying to wound, and not kill, the intruder. "The easiest thing to do is to shoot to kill," said Gal-On. "Everything I warned of happened earlier than I thought," she added.

MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) denounced the law as enabling executions, saying he hopes the next Knesset will revoke the law.