Monday, December 11, 2000

Settler arrested for shooting of boy

Jewish, Palestinian versions of shooting incident differ widely

Ha'aretz Correspondents

By Amira Hass, Amos Harel, Yair Sheleg and Baruch Kra

A member of the Kiryat Arba local council turned himself in to the police on Saturday night and admitted that he might have been responsible for the shooting of a 13-year-old Palestinian boy near Hebron on Friday. Yehoshua Shani, 37, gave himself up following a shooting incident in which Mantsur Jaber, from Hebron, was shot in the abdomen. Jaber is in serious but stable condition at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem.

Widely divergent accounts of the shooting incident have been furnished by Jewish settlers and Palestinians.

On Friday, dozens of settlers from Kiryat Arba and Hebron occupied a house belonging to Ata Jaber at Givat Haharsina, east of Hebron. "This is a house which was built on Kiryat Arba's land," stated Kiryat Arba council head Zvi Katzover, "and for a year and a half we've demanded that the army demolish it. After the terror attack on Friday [in the Kiryat Arba area, in which Eliyahu Ben-Ami and Rina Didovski were killed] we went into the empty building and demanded that it be torn down."

Katzover, who was present at the scene of the shooting, continued: "On Saturday morning some residents from Kiryat Arba came to encourage us." After finishing prays in the building, these visitors were pelted by stones and other objects while they walked back to Kiryat Arba. Yehoshua Shani, who was accompanied by his two small children, was one of those attacked, Katzover says. Shani "fired bullets in the air, and it is still isn't clear to us whether he was the one who shot the Palestinian boy, though it's possible that due to the sloping path on which he was walking the shots inadvertently hit the boy," Katzover related. Some time later, when it became clear that somebody had been shot, Shani turned himself in, Katzover said.

The suspect, Shani, says that he fired a few warning shots in the air at a 60 degree angle because he felt endangered by the stone throwing.

Palestinians, including relations of the wounded boy, say that Jaber was shot when a group of Jewish settlers raided a whole neighborhood. A large band of settlers, some of them armed, hurled stones and vandalized houses in the neighborhood, causing damage to windows, the Palestinians say. Local residents went outside in an effort to repulse the attacking settlers; possibly, the Palestinian sources say, some residents hurled stones in an effort to keep the settlers away from their homes.

In the Palestinian account, Mantsur Jaber never attacked settlers with stones. He was shot, Palestinians say, when he opened the door to his home after having heard a commotion in the yard.

The Palestinians charge that Israeli police and IDF troops remained idle throughout this settler raid. Only after the wounding of the 13 year old boy, and the submission of an urgent complaint to the High Court, did Israeli security authorities force the settlers out of Ata Jabar's home, the Palestinian sources claim.

On Saturday night the army removed more than two hundred settlers who had occupied the Palestinian home, IDF sources report. Paratrooper and Nahal units, along with Border Policemen and police - all told, some 150 security men - were deployed. Some soldiers and policemen received blows and were cursed by settlers, sources said.

Though the police investigation against Shani focused yesterday on suspicions of attempted murder, police sources indicate that it hasn't been proven conclusively that shots from his pistol wounded the boy. In addition, Shani's plea that he fired warning shots in self defense is being examined by the police.


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