YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


4 Slain Settlers Are Laid to Rest

West Bank: Mourners in Itamar demand revenge against Palestinians and tougher action by the army.


ITAMAR, West Bank — Jewish settlers trudged through the smoldering remains of the Shabo home Friday, gasping at shrapnel holes in the bedroom walls, then converged on a hillside for the burial of Rachel Shabo and three of her children.

The settlers demanded swift revenge for the Shabos, slain the night before when a Palestinian gunman slipped over this isolated settlement's fence and burst into their home. A neighbor who headed the community's emergency-response security detail was killed when he rushed to save them.

A volunteer gingerly swabbed blood Friday morning from the floor of one of the Shabo children's rooms and sifted through mattress stuffing that had spilled into heaps, seeking pieces of human flesh for burial or removal.

It was the second deadly attack here in three weeks, and the settlers were both angry and eager to fight the Palestinians who claim the same rocky hills and valleys of the West Bank.

"With God's help, the blood spilled here will be soaked in the land of Samaria and will nourish the olive trees, and with God's help, we will have revenge," Natan Chay, the settlement's rabbi, preached before hundreds who came to bury the Shabos.

On the fringes of the crowd, a group of settlers scuffled with police and heckled the local army commander. "If you did your job," someone shouted at Col. Yossi Adiri as he waded into the mourners, "you wouldn't be attending a funeral!"

Others wept or prayed as they walked to the cemetery, carrying on stretchers the shrouded bodies of Rachel Shabo, 40, and her sons Neria, 16; Zvi, 12; and Avishai, 5.

Later, some of the settlers leaving the funeral reportedly rampaged through the nearby Palestinian village of Hawara, shot to death a young Palestinian man, and burned cars and a house.

The Shabos were killed after a Palestinian invaded the family home, the largest on the block and sitting on the southern edge of the settlement. Earlier reports had indicated that there was more than one gunman.

Adiri said the intruder apparently shot two or three of the children shortly after entering the home. They were on the ground floor, and their mother, upon hearing the shots, rushed downstairs to see what was happening. She was shot then, Adiri said.

Paramilitary border police hurried to the site, forced their way into the home and began a room-to-room search while evacuating the dead and wounded. A young daughter, injured, emerged from a second-floor room where it turned out the Palestinian had hidden, Adiri said. The troops flooded the room with hand grenades. The Palestinian leaped from a window and was shot to death by soldiers positioned on the ground below, Adiri said.

The upper stories of the house burst into flames, probably when gunfire hit a gas canister. The body of the youngest child, Avishai, was not found until after the shooting had stopped and the fire was put out, Adiri said.

He acknowledged the possibility that one or more members of the family could have been killed by Israeli fire, caught in the barrage of bullets and shrapnel.

Rachel Shabo's husband and two eldest children were not at home at the time of the attack.

Palestinian militants consider settlers to be legitimate targets because of their presence on land that Palestinians want for a future sovereign state. Settlements on land seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War are considered illegal under international law that prohibits an occupying power from locating its people in occupied territory.

Itamar, home to about 90 families, is among the most hard-line of settlements that dot the swath of the West Bank that runs north of Jerusalem to Nablus. At the funeral, nearly every adult male was armed, some with M-16 rifles slung across their backs, others with pistols tucked into their waistbands.

They complained Friday that the actions taken by the army and government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to battle the Palestinians are insufficient, despite a large-scale military campaign underway in which troops are occupying numerous Palestinian towns. The settlers said they would like to be allowed to patrol the region with their own armed squads.

After the funeral, Adiri was confronted repeatedly by settlers demanding tougher action.

"You have to launch an attack. You can't be on the defensive all the time," one woman reprimanded the commander. She held a baby in her arms while two toddlers tugged at her elbow. "It's a scandal."

"We are in Nablus," Adiri responded, referring to the nearest large Palestinian city. "Do you know that? Do you know?"

"If you claim you don't have enough men, then you should resign," she pressed.

"I care about what's happening here, more than you think," Adiri said.

Despite the recent attacks, settlers said they were determined to hold their ground and expand it, to prove what they consider to be their God-given entitlement to the land. They have taken extra security precautions, they said. Some women are getting gun permits.

Rinat Khabra, who lives across the street from the Shabos, acknowledged that the fear of danger was taking its toll. Her children, who had played with the Shabos and who hid in a back bedroom of the Khabra home throughout Thursday night's shooting, ask difficult questions and spent Friday speaking to a school psychologist, Khabra said. Somewhat dazed, Khabra said she too was experiencing symptoms of trauma.

"When these things happen, you are scared," she said. "But afterward you become stronger. If we don't get stronger, we collapse."

Los Angeles Times Articles