Israel reversed course and re-imposed a strict closure on the Gaza Strip on Monday, after the bullet-ridden body of a missing Israeli man was found this morning near his hothouse complex outside Kfar Yam, in the Gush Katif bloc.
Roni Tzalach was reported missing Sunday evening by his father-in-law, after calls to his cell-phone went unanswered. At the hothouse where he worked, a kilometer outside Kfar Yam, Tzalach's car was discovered missing, the hothouse generator was running, and Tzalach's cell-phone and other belongings were inside the hothouse. The car was equipped with a locating transmitter, and was tracked to the nearby Palestinian town of Khan Yunis.
The vehicle was later found burned up just inside Palestinian territory near Gush Katif. Firing flares into the night sky to aid their search, the IDF last night closed main roads in Gaza and sealed off its borders to locate Tzalach. Army units conducted house-to-house searches overnight, but turned up nothing.
This morning, however, his body was found full of bullet holes near the hothouse where he worked. Tzalach was working with his Palestinian employees at the hothouses when he was abducted last night. The Palestinian workers are suspected of involvement in the killing.
Israeli Cabinet minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer suggested today that the murder may have been ordered by top officials of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority. "I don't know if it was (Gaza Palestinian Preventative Security chief) Muhammed Dahlan or if it was Arafat - one thing is clear: a murder like this cannot be committed without there being an instruction from above."
Though a group affiliated with Fatah today claimed responsibility for the murder, it was reported that Palestinian police chief Ghazi Jibali knew where the murdered body lay, and told reporters that the corpse was in the hothouse complex.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak condemned the abduction and cold-blooded murder as "an unforgivable and abominable crime," and said that the murderers will not get away with it. "Israel's long arm will reach them and they will be duly punished, as has been done with those responsible for previous attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians," he said.
Following the murder, the Israeli army completely sealed off the Gaza Strip, and closed the Gaza airport once again. Armored units also returned to key road junctions, dividing the Strip into three sections again. The army had opened the airport and major roads in Gaza just last week after talks with PA security chiefs.
As violence escalated in Gaza, gunfire was reported in the area of the hothouses soon after Tzalach's body was found. A roadside bomb was detonated near a convoy of six civilian vehicles driving between the Netzarim settlement and the Karni junction. Palestinians later unleashed a volley of anti-tank fire at IDF forces near Netzarim, and army sappers neutralized a roadside bomb found last night in the area. Several Palestinians were detected by IDF forces as they attempted to plant the explosive device, but the terrorists succeeded in fleeing into Palestinian controlled territory.
An Israeli motorist was lightly wounded in a sniping attack while driving between the settlements of Itamar and Elon Moreh. The snipers, reportedly from the nearby village of Salem, also fired on five other passing vehicles, including a bus.
Police early this morning arrested two Palestinian youths for the firebomb attack on a home in Jerusalem's Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood over the weekend. Residents of the house were uninjured in the attack, although some damage was caused. Meanwhile, in a village east of Jerusalem, police arrested three Palestinians and a 17-year-old woman earlier today. They were in illegal possession of two pistols and a Kalashnikov rifle. The young woman was discovered hiding one of the weapons under her skirt.
A 10-year-old Arab boy died last night in Ramallah after being wounded in the head nine days ago during clashes with the IDF.
Meanwhile, shots were fired last night at Jerusalem's Neve Ya'acov neighborhood, for the first time since the start of the intifada. No one was hurt, but there was considerable structural damage to four apartments.
A Jordanian man infiltrated into Israel overnight and was caught by security forces. The man was discovered near the town of Beit Shean in the Jordan Valley, ARMY RADIO reported.
In the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, a woman was stabbed in the back late Sunday morning, and was transferred to Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital in moderate condition. The attacker escaped toward Palestinian territory.
Despite the renewed "security cooperation" efforts between the PA and Israel, Palestinians shot and threw firebombs at Israeli targets in at least four locations on Friday and Saturday nights. The shooting Saturday occurred while Israeli Cabinet minister Shimon Peres was meeting with Arafat in Gaza.
Palestinian gunmen targeted several groups of civilians in Hebron on the start of the Jewish Shabbat, opening fire on women and children from four directions. On Saturday, Arabs hurled cement blocks at soldiers in the city. Also on Friday night, two roadside bombs exploded on the El Khader bypass road near Bethlehem.
A Fatah "Tanzim" militiaman was shot and killed during fierce clashes in Hebron on Friday. Another Palestinian teenager was injured.
On Saturday night, four Israeli residents of Ma'aleh Shomron mistakenly drove to a Palestinian roadblock near Nablus. Palestinian policemen at the roadblock confiscated two weapons held by the Israelis and briefly detained them before handing them over to the IDF. The IDF Spokesman said the weapons were returned to the District Coordinating Office.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.