Miriam Cohen, an employee of Hapoalim Bank
branch in Beersheba,
was held hostage by city resident Itamar Alon for over an hour after he murdered four people at around noon Monday, apparently after the bank refused to settle over a debt.
The victims are bank manager Avner Cohen, 44, his deputy Meir Zitun, 44, Anat Even-Haim, 34, and Idan Schnitzer, 22.
"I'll show you, like you didn't give me, now I'll show you," Cohen described how the shooter kept repeating in an interview to channels 2 and 10.
Describing her ordeal, Cohen said the shooter warned her to stay silent else he will shoot her. "A second later the gun was drawn in my face," she recounted.
Miriam Cohen after she left the bank (Photo: Eliad Levy)
Locked in the bathroom with the shooter, Cohen was sure she would not escape with her life. "Thank God, it was a miracle," she said. After an hour, Alon told her to turn around with her face to the wall. "I said 'that's it, this is the end of me,' and then I lowered my head and didn't look at him and he put the gun in his mouth, I couldn't see, but I heard a shot."
She then ran out of the bank and was taken by the police.
Avner Cohen, an Omer resident, who was shot and killed in the attack, is survived by a wife and three children, aged six, 13, and 18. His aunt, Zehava Tapiro, visited him the day of the shooting: "I went this morning at 9 am to invite him to my son's wedding. We sat together; he talked and laughed with me.
"He asked whether I need money for the wedding. I was ashamed to say yes, and he sent me to the other branch and thus saved my life."
Tapiro added: "I left the branch and promised to return, but half an hour later my husband called and told me what happened. I realized my life is over."
Scene of incident (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
She said that Cohen started running the branch a few months ago, and described her nephew as a man with an easy smile. "It was hard to leave him. I told him how I enjoy seeing him."
Liat, a relative of victim Anat Even-Haim, said she had an 11-year-old girl and two twins aged four. "She went to the bank this morning with her mother, went inside and told her mother she'll be right back. But she didn't. They shot her inside the bank."
Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg
Liat heard the grave news from her brother, who asked her to take the children from school. "It's a huge loss," she said. "She was a brilliant and vivacious woman. It's a shame."
The shooting occurred around noon. An initial police investigation revealed the Alon, a Jewish
resident of the city, asked the bank employees to reach a settlement over a NIS 6,000 ($1,640) debt.
When he entered the bank in the morning he apparently argued with the teller, possibly after his credit card was swallowed by the ATM.
A few hours later he returned, sat in the waiting room and suddenly drew a gun. He shot a woman standing in line and another client and then proceeded to shoot two bank employees, apparently shooting them again to make sure they were dead.
Alon later barricaded himself with a hostage, who was released alive after an hour, and then shot and killed himself.
Police are also checking whether the man, a former Border Guard
officer of about 40 who also worked for the local municipality, was in financial difficulties. It appears his gun was properly licensed.