On Thursday evening, a Jerusalem man became the fifth Israeli civilian in the past two weeks murdered by armed Palestinian gangs targeting Jews over the Green Line.
Akiva Pashkos, 45, was shot dead in a terror attack near the Atarot industrial zone north of Jerusalem just before 7 p.m last night, even as the Taba peace talks resumed. Prime Minister Ehud Barak denounced the killing as a "despicable murder" and vowed that the assailants would be caught and punished, but did not suspend the Taba talks, as he did after the murder in Tulkarm of two restaurant owners from Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
Pashkos had taken several Arab workers from the factory where he was employed in the Atarot industrial zone to a nearby junction in his van and dropped them off. On his way back, at the southern entrance to Atarot close to the Arab village of Bir Naballah, several shots were fired at his car, and he was fatally wounded. The attackers, who were either driving in a separate vehicle or laying in ambush, fled to Bir Naballah. Soldiers who raced to the scene also came under fire from the gunmen, but there were no casualties. Pashkos is survived by his wife, Hila, and their five children.
Palestinian security officials claimed on Wednesday they had arrested four suspects believed involved in the abduction and execution, but IDF sources expressed doubts about the report. An offshoot of Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction claimed responsibility for the attack, a senior Fatah official told REUTERS. The official said the group, calling itself "The Brigades of Thabet Thabet," claimed to have shot dead an Israeli near the Kalandia refugee camp. In a pamphlet distributed Thursday night, the organization said it carried out the attack to avenge the IDF's assassination of senior Fatah activist Dr. Thabet Thabet on December 31.
Israeli security officials noted that Bir Naballah is the hometown of Mona Awana, the Palestinian woman who allegedly lured 16-year-old Ofir Rahum to his death last week after befriending him over the Internet. That town, which is under Israeli security control, was also where IDF soldier Nachshon Wachsman was held and eventually killed, after being kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists six years ago. The area of the Atarot industrial zone has been a site of repeated unrest over the past four months.
Pashkus became the fifth Israeli civilian casualty to be killed by Palestinian terrorists in the territories over the past twelve days. Four of the terror victims were residents of Israel proper and one was a farmer who lived in the Gush Katif bloc of settlements in Gaza. Since the start of the Intifada last September, 48 Israelis have been killed in terrorist attacks carried out by Palestinians, while over 320 Palestinians have been killed, most while staging violent riots and lethal attacks on Israelis.
The Ramallah region has recently become a focus for terrorist activity. Two gunfire attacks on the settlement of Psagot, east of Ramallah, were reported Thursday, marking the second consecutive day on which shots were fired at this Jewish settlement. There have been a number of shooting incidents near Atarot, and Highway 443 leading from Jerusalem to Modi'in via Givat Ze'ev. Two Israeli civilians have been killed on these stretches, and around ten more have been injured by terrorists.
To improve the security of Israelis traveling on these roads, the IDF has recently increased its presence along the roads, even positioning tanks there. This show of strength, however, has had limited effect and the number of Israeli vehicles on the roads has decreased noticeably. Some IDF sources claim the terror cells launching shooting attacks along Highway 443 are being aided and managed by Palestinian security and intelligence officials.
The General Security Service WEDNESDAY night released Fuwaz Abu Hussein, a friend of the two Tel Aviv restauranteurs Motti Dayan and Etgar Zeitouny, who was present at the time of their murder by Palestinian gunmen in Tulkarm on Tuesday. Hussein had initially been suspected of luring the two men to the Palestinian-controlled city so they could be killed. Police determined that he was not an accessory to the crime.
According to Hussein, the three had finished eating at a small restaurant and paid for the meal when three masked men abducted Dayan and Zeitouny. "I tried to talk to them in Arabic. No one wanted to listen to me. One of them shot at me and miraculously didn't hit me. I ran after them and tried to block them with my body, but it didn't help," Hussein told reporters after he was released.
"We didn't think it was an abduction. We thought it was the police. I'm sorry. I'm sorry we didn't all stay home," he said before breaking down in tears.
Israel security forces arrested the bodyguard for Tawfik Tirawi, head of Palestinian intelligence in Judea/Samaria, ISRAEL RADIO reported Friday. Tirawi's office said Ihab Suliman, a resident of the Ramallah area, was arrested because he refused to help the Shin Bet security service in its investigation of last week's murder of Israeli teen Ophir Rahum. The Prime Minister's Office denied the allegation and said that Tirawi's bodyguard was arrested on suspicion of hostile activities.
Shooting incidents occurred throughout YESHA Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.