It was cleared for publication Tuesday that Police have arrested six suspects in the lynching of Jewish terrorist Eden Natan Zada, who shot four Israeli-Arabs dead in Shfaram ten months ago.
Three suspects were apprehended in their Shfaram homes Monday night, and two more were arrested near Eilat and Kiryat Gat. Another suspect was brought in from his incarceration in the Tzalmon Prison.
The seventh suspect later handed himself over to police.
The suspects, ages 20, 24, 26, 28, 30, and 42, and another suspect scheduled to be detained Tuesday will be brought before a Haifa court to extend their remand.
The suspects, three Muslims, three Druze, and one Christian, reflect the population in Shfaram. They were arrested after the police received photographed material from the media and testimonies from police officers and witnesses.
The commander of the Northern District Police established a special investigative team headed by Chief Superintendent Haim Rahamim, who investigated the case over the last 10 months.
Police didn’t escape criticism, however, and many question their action, asking why it took so long to arrest the suspects in light of the clear evidence police has against them.
"I'm sure the police had other instructions and was weighing political reasons," said chairman of the Hadash party, MK Mohammad Barakeh, who criticized the arrests in Shfaram.
Suspect in police custody (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
"Such arbitrary arrests are meant to serve the right-wing on the eve of the one year anniversary to Zada's massacre," said Barakeh, and added that "residents of Shfaram protected themselves when they realized that the killer meant to murder more people. Police and the security forces have been searching ever since for an alibi to falsify the facts and deny the fact that there has been a massacre in town."
MK Jamal Zahalka (National Democratic Assembly) said after the arrests "they put the blame on the victim, once again. In Shfaram there was vile killer who killed four civilians and the residents protected themselves. Instead of adding insult to injury the police must investigate who the killer's accomplices were and who turned a blind eye."
Tonight the "Popular Committee," which was established following the Zada incident, will convene to determine how to provide aid to the suspects that were arrested and how to convey Shfaram residents' protest following the arrests. The committee consists of public officials and attorneys from Shfaram.
Ten months ago extreme right-wing activist Zada opened fire in bus number 165 in Shfaram, killing four of the passengers and wounded nine otthers.
'A law is a law'
Zada was an IDF deserter who spent much of his time in the West Bank settlement of Kfar Tapuah and was known to be a Kach activist. Angry residents managed to board the bus after the shooting and lynched Zada. Police managed to evacuate Zada's body only four hours later and put it in a police vehicle, while religious leaders used loudspeakers to persuade the mob not to attack the officers.
Northern District Police Chief Dan Ronen said the incident is especially complicated and sensitive. "The investigation was conducted under strict professional consideration. It is my guarantee. There were no political considerations, not even from the minister who is responsible."
Ronen added: “In a country with law and order, despite the sensitivity, people can't do whatever they see fit. I hope the Arab sector will display maturity and responsibility.
He also spoke with the mayor of Shfaram, Orsan Yassin, who responded by saying that "a law is a law, and an order is an order."
“My opinions were clear from the beginning: I demanded no investigation and no arrests. I would prefer that Zada stay alive and get punished by the court of law, but what was done to him was the public's expression of rage" he said.
Ronen reiterated that the investigation was carried out with the utmost sensitivity. "We learned our lessons from the October 2000 events. The four people who were murdered could have turned into 40 had the police opened fire, and we did have the authority to open fire. He said four of the seven suspects have criminal records.
When asked why it took so long to arrest the suspects, Ronen said: "I'm familiar with the criticism that was voiced and I guarantee you, no official, certainly not a political official, was ever involved in the case; everything was conducted in accordance with strict professional considerations and every stage was accompanied by consultations.