SHFARAM - (VIDEO) Four people were killed and at least six others were wounded after army deserter Eden Natan Zada opened fire aboard a bus in the Arab town of Shfaram, in northern Israel.
Eyewitnesses said angry locals, or possibly bus passengers, managed to storm the bus following the attack and killed the shooter. Police reportedly had trouble retrieving the body, which was lying on the stars of the bus, as a result of the angry mob gathered at the scene.
Meanwhile, police in the north declared a general call-up and dispatched helicopters, water cannons, and mounted forces to the area. Hundreds of officers were dispatched to the region by choppers from Jerusalem and the West Bank
The IDF boosted its alert level across the West Bank following the shooting for fear of riots. The Border Guard reinforced its presence in Hebron, around the Cave of the Patriarchs, and in the northern West Bank.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon issued a special statement following the Shfaram shooting saying, “This is a vile act by a blood-thirsty Jewish terrorist who aimed to hurt innocent citizens.”
“Terror by citizens against citizens is the most dangerous thing regarding Israel’s future and its democratic character,” the statement said
Scene of attack (Courtesy Channel 2)
Following the attack, Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra told Ynet the shooting was no doubt a terror attack.
“This looks like a serious terror attack, we were all concerned about such incident,” he said. “Obviously this could have happened as a result of incitement. I hope everyone draws the right conclusions and stop the incitement.”
The 19-year-old Natan Zada was said to be an insubordinate soldier who refused to take part in the upcoming pullout from Gaza and the northern West bank. He reportedly spent time recently in the West Bank settlement of Tapuah, known as a stronghold of radicals.
Natan Zada left the army during basic training about two months ago and was declared a defector, with Military Police looking for him ever since. Before he deserted, Natan Zada announced he would refuse to take part in the establishment of an army tent city near Gaza ahead of the pullout.
Following the shooting, large crowds of locals gathered at the scene and hurled stones and bottles at the bus, where the shooter was taking refuge. Paramedics also had a difficult time reaching the scene and treating the wounded because of the large crowds.
Local security officer Jamal Aalian told Ynet: “I handcuffed the soldier and detained him with another police officer, he was bleeding…He was alive and we didn’t allow the mob to hurt him….I think he was killed about half an hour after shooting.”
About 30 police officers gathered in and around the bus and attempted to stop the mob from storming it, but several youngsters managed to break through. Three police officers, as well as several locals, reportedly sustained injuries in the incident
'Soldier continued to fire at people'
Former Shfaram Deputy Mayor Khatem Hason who arrived at the scene shortly after the attack said the shooter was a religious Jewish soldier.
“When the bus reached Sheikh Amid Farid Street…he shot the driver and other passengers. The bus rolled down and stopped to the side of the road, and the soldier continued to fire at people,” he said.
“Those killed are the driver and two young girls,” Hason said. “The shooter is still on the bus. Some residents hurled stones while others attempted to protect him, after taking away his gun”
Hason also slammed the police for their slow response time.
“When they arrived, the situation calmed down,” he said. “People are not digesting what happened here. People are stunned. We have no idea why he shot.”
Knesset Member Azmi Bishara (National Democratic Assembly) said in response to the shooting, “I hope this is not another Baruch Goldstein. This is an intentional shooting.”
A spokesman for Magen David Adom, Aharon Mor, told Ynet that “the residents are raging here and they didn’t allow emergency crews to get to the bus. Two Shfaram ambulances evacuated the wounded to hospitals. The police came after a very long delay, 20 minutes after the incident.”
Naqed Naqed, a resident of a Druze neighborhood in Shfaram in which the incident occurred, told Ynet that he heard “shots fired, and residents of the neighborhood were very scared.” Naqed, an activist in the Hadash political party, said the atmosphere in the neighborhood and city was extremely tense.
Ali Waked, Efrat Weiss, and Hanan Greenberg contributed to this report.