Shot in the dark
Hebrew media review

Shot in the dark

A pre-Passover terror attack near Hebron leaves one dead, and lots of questions about what happens next

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Troops next to the scene of a fatal shooting attack near Hebron on Monday, April 14, 2014. (photo credit:  Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Troops next to the scene of a fatal shooting attack near Hebron on Monday, April 14, 2014. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

A terror attack that left one dead and two injured, moments before the Passover Seder, grips Israel’s print media on Wednesday.

Baruch Mizrahi, 47, his wife and child were driving to Hebron for the holiday and were attacked by a lone gunman who opened fire on their car. Mizrahi was mortally wounded and died at the scene. His wife was moderately injured and their child suffered light wounds.

Playing up the patriotism element as the peace talks falter, Israel Hayom runs a headline that reads, “30 years for the sake of the state.”

Mizrahi was an off-duty police officer serving in the Israel Police’s signal intelligence unit. Curiously, the paper leads with a quote from his commander — rather than the hard news or a quote from Mizrahi’s wife — expressing his condolences.

“Baruch dedicated his whole life to his two great loves: his family and the State of Israel,” the officer said. “This a great loss first and foremost to his family, and a personal and professional loss to the people of the unit, the battalion, the Israel Police and the state.”

“Murdered on the way to the Seder,” reads the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth. The tabloid quotes Mizrahi’s bereaved widow telling the soldiers who arrived at the scene to “take the children, so they won’t see their dead father.”

Yedioth Ahronoth reports that on Wednesday the IDF was on top alert because of the shooting and a mass gathering of Jews in Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors.

Haaretz plays the straight man and just gives the facts of the incident. It reports that immediately after the shooting, the IDF encircled the nearby village of Idhna and searched for suspects in the incident. By Tuesday morning, the soldiers had lifted the cordon, set up roadblocks around the village and searched vehicles entering and exiting. Haaretz reports that the IDF suspects it was a lone gunman who carried out the attack, rather than an organized group. The IDF was also investigating the possibility of a second gunman.

According to Israel Hayom’s Yoav Limor, however, contrary to initial suspicions, “yesterday security officials already said that it was [carried out], in all likelihood, with local coordination.” He argues that the location was chosen because it was far from any IDF posts; the weapon was an AK-47, not an old hunting rifle; and the shooter had an escape plan.  

“As of [Tuesday] night, no organization assumed responsibility for the attack, but it’s an area in which there is a significant presence particularly of Hamas,” he writes. Limor says Israeli security officials voiced “cautious optimism” that the case would be solved soon.

Haaretz’s Amos Harel notes that the attack could have been carried out by a lone gunman, or by a more organized cell affiliated with a terror group, due to its planning. “Even the timing does not seem coincidental,” he says, “it was probably planned to achieve maximum media coverage, right before the beginning of the holiday.”

He says the attack also took place “when the coalition is squabbling over a massive release of security prisoners” and peace talks are on the rocks, and that Netanyahu “has to maneuver politically.”

In Yedioth, Ariela Ringel Hoffman praises Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s criticism of the Palestinian leadership’s lack of condemnation of the attack (and his statement that such attacks stem from incitement), but says “the bigger war needs to be the war for peace.

“There is no choice. Because if they don’t speak, during this evil hour, then the voice that will be heard will be the voice of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who praised the attack, who said that it brought back the way of resistance,” she writes.

In the same paper, Hagai Segal asks why Israel continues to engage Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in peace talks if he’s behind the incitement that spurred the attack. He says that all the Palestinian media outlets that promote incitement “are within arm’s reach of the IDF” and that “if we only wanted, it would be possible to shut them down within an hour.” He calls for “one epic strike” to make clear to Israel’s “evil neighbors” that it doesn’t tolerate any terror.

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