Four Israelis gunned down in night of terror

A Palestinian terrorist infiltrated the community of Itamar, near Nablus, late Tuesday night and opened fire, killing three students playing basketball at a religious seminary, before being shot and killed by the settlement's security officer. Two other students were lightly wounded. Earlier, Jerusalem resident Albert Malul, 50, was fatally wounded while traveling with his cousin near the settlement of Ofra.

The names of the victims of the terrorist attack in Itamar were publicized Wednesday morning:

Natanel Riahi, 17, from Kochav Yaakov

Gilad Stiglitz, 15, from Yakir

Avraham Siton, 18, from Shilo

The terrorist penetrated into the settlement at about 11 p.m., and opened fire at students playing basketball on the yeshiva's court. Two of the boys were injured fatally from the shots, and the others tried to escape. The terrorist approached the mobile caravans that serve as housing for the yeshiva students, and continued firing. One student was killed by the gunfire, and two others were wounded.

Aryeh Klieman, the security guard of the yeshiva, managed to shoot and injure the Palestinian terrorist. The community's emergency defense team went into action, and Rabbi Nitzan Yamin, a Paratroopers company commander in the reserves, shot and killed the wounded terrorist. Klieman was, in the past, an educator of the murdered students. "My son was playing basketball on the court," said Haya Shechner, whose son Eitan, 15, was wounded in the attack. Shortly afterwards he called his mother and said, "They are shooting at us. I see my friends - they are shooting at them. I managed to escape and was hit in the back." Large contingents of security forces arrived in Itamar and began searching the surrounding area. Initial investigations indicated that the terrorist acted alone.

Itamar is only partially protected by a security fence, news agencies reported. The settlement's Hitzim yeshiva is a religious seminary that emphasizes studies of Eretz Yisrael - Israeli history and culture, Maariv reported. Some 80 families live in Itamar, and an additional 25 families live in nearby settlement outposts.

The military wing of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, claimed responsibility for the Itamar attack, as well as for the shooting three hours earlier near Ofra.

Jerusalem motorist murdered in terrorist ambush

Albert Malul was killed and his cousin, Herzl, was injured when Palestinians opened fire at their car on a highway south of the settlement of Ofra, east of Ramallah. The two, operators of a swimming pool in the settlement of Eli, were on their way home to Jerusalem when their car was ambushed.

"I saw the terrorist standing on the side of the road shooting bursts of gunfire at me," said Herzl, who was driving the car. "Even though I swerved the car to the side, I saw that Albert had been hit," he said, Maariv reported.

"The attack occurred some 700 meters (770 yards) north of the turnoff to Beit El," said Pinhas Wallerstein, head of the Binyamin Regional Council. The Jerusalem Post reported that the attack occurred in the same location where Ofra resident Assaf Hershkowitz was murdered a year ago.

"The terrorists or terrorist came from either Deir Dibwan or Beitin. There is a dirt road there and from what I understood, the terrorists approached the car and shot at point-blank range and then fled back toward the village," Wallerstein said.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon this morning convened the security cabinet to discuss Israel's response to the surge of terrorist attacks in recent days. The two shooting attacks in the West Bank followed Sunday's suicide bombing in Petach Tikva, and came despite the continuation of Israeli military actions in Kalkilya, Jenin, Bethlehem and Hebron.

Ellis Shuman Israelinsider

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