Jewish Head of Bedouin Town Shot At, Car Set on Fire

An arson attack on a car belonging to the Jewish head of a predominantly Bedouin town could be politically motivated, police said yesterday.

In the early morning hours of Sunday, unidentified arsonists set fire to a car which was known to belong to Zvika Fogel, the head of the Tuba-Zangaria municipal council in the north.

Gunmen also fired shots at the council building while Fogel was in his office with his employees. A number of windows were shattered and shards of glass were scattered around the offices. No injuries were reported from either incident. A car carrying three individuals fled the scene immediately after the attack.

Fogel is a senior combat officer in the Israel Defense Forces who took part in Operation Cast Lead. Police say Fogel's participation in the war is one possible motive for the attack.

"All directions of the investigation are being examined, including this one," Police superintendent Nir Akron said. The Shin Bet security service is also reportedly involved in the probe.

Numerous Arab-language Web sites have posted claims stating that the twin attacks were motivated by Fogel's standing as a senior IDF officer who took part in combat operations in Gaza, though police remain skeptical. "Now there are an assorted number of individuals who are jumping on the bandwagon," Akron said.

Fogel did not report to work yesterday. He stated that he has no intention of returning to his office until the perpetrators turn themselves in to police.

Though the police have instructed Fogel to remain in his home, the council chief said his absence from work was his personal choice.

"I will come back to work only if there will be cooperation from the residents," Fogel told Haaretz. "Only if the silent majority will step up and [turn] the three shooters [in] then I will know that the town has a desire to be a part of the society that surrounds it."

Fogel, who holds the rank of brigadier general in the IDF reserves, was appointed by then-interior minister Meir Sheetrit to head the local council a year ago. Tuba-Zangaria is a Bedouin village in the Upper Galilee east of Rosh Pina with a population of 6,000.

Fogel says he did not receive any threats beforehand nor did he notice any unusual signs that indicated he would be a target.