A Hamas operative released under the 2011 exchange for Gilad Shalit has been arrested for gunning down Baruch Mizrahi near Hebron on Passover eve, the Shin Bet security service announced on Monday, after a gag order on the case was lifted.
The cabinet ruled the suspect will have his home demolished, pending the approval of the High Court of Justice. His son was also arrested, and the two were indicted Monday.
“I gave the directive to destroy the home of the terrorist, a Hamas man, as part of the general effort to combat Hamas,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, praising the security services for what he called the speedy process of tracking down the killer.
Ziad Awad and his son Izz Eddin Hassan Ziad Awad were arrested on May 7 by the Israel Police’s elite counter-terrorism unit in collaboration with the Shin Bet security service for the April 14 shooting of the 47-year-old father of five. The senior Awad is accused of carrying out the shooting, while his son allegedly assisted him in planning the shooting and coordinating the escape.
The younger Awad, 18, handed over the Kalashnikov rifle used to kill Mizrahi during the interrogation, and provided information implicating his father in the shooting, a Shin Bet statement said.
The two are residents of the Palestinian village of Idhna, in the Hebron area, and during the course of an investigation confessed that the elder Ziad Awad had purchased the motorcycle and the Kalashnikov and scouted out the scene a week prior to the attack. He was said to have acted strangely both immediately before and after the killing.
The shooting was religiously motivated, the Shin Bet said, with the elder Awad telling his son that “according to Islam, whoever kills a Jew goes to heaven.”
Awad, who spent 12 years in an Israeli prison for the murder of Palestinian collaborators with Israel, was released in 2011 as part of the prisoner exchange for Shalit before completing his term. Over 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners were freed to secure the release of Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in a 2006 raid into southern Israel; Shalit was held hostage in Gaza for five years.
Noam Shalit, the father of the freed soldier, told the Ynet news website Monday that “we didn’t assemble the list of released prisoners, nor did we demand the release of these inmates or any others.”
More than 50 other Hamas men freed in the Shalit deal have been arrested in recent days in the West Bank for breaching the terms of their release, as Israel searches for three Israeli teenagers kidnapped, allegedly by Hamas, on June 12.
The Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett said the arrest of Awad for the April killing underlined that any further prisoner exchanges were untenable. “Today it was publicized that Baruch Mizrahi of blessed memory, who was killed in April, was killed by a terrorist released in the Shalit deal,” Economy Minister Bennett said in a statement. “When the Israeli government releases terrorists, at that very moment we seal the fate of entire families, we just don’t know yet the victims’ faces or names. After 30 years it is clear that Israel should not release any more terrorists, in any situation, period.”
“Today more than ever we need to say clearly: We will not release any more terrorists,” he added.
Mizrahi, senior police officer, was killed while driving to Hebron to celebrate Passover with his wife’s family. His pregnant wife, Hadas, was moderately injured in the attack.
Hadas Mizrahi told the Ynet news website that, while driving, her husband had seen the terrorist and cried, “They’re shooting, they’re shooting, there’s a terrorist.” After her husband was shot, she took the wheel, drove out of sight, and alerted the authorities.
“I covered my blood with a rag,” said Hadas, who was shot twice and broke a rib. “I saw that Baruch was dead. When the soldiers arrived, I told them, ‘Bandage me and take the children to the armored vehicle, so that they don’t see their father lying [there] dead.’”
On Monday, Hadas said she had always opposed prisoner exchanges. She also said she hoped her husband’s murderers “get the punishment they deserve: the death penalty and not life imprisonment.”