Thousands of people attended the funeral of Eden Atias,18, in Nazareth Ilit’s military cemetery Wednesday night, hours after the IDF soldier was stabbed to death while he was sleeping on a bus by a Palestinian youth.
Atias’s father, who is serving a prison sentence, was escorted to the funeral by Israel Prison Service guards, Ynet reported.
Earlier, some 150 people protested at the Afula central bus station, where the attack took place, against the government’s handling of peace talks with the Palestinians, noting that this was the fourth murderous terrorist attack since US-brokered negotiations restarted in July.
On Wednesday morning, Atias was stabbed multiple times in the neck by a Palestinian youth on a bus at the bus station. His alleged assailant was later named as Hussein Rawarda.
The soldier was evacuated to the city’s Haemek Hospital. Doctors operated on him in an attempt to stabilize his condition but he succumbed to his injuries a few hours later.
Eyewitnesses said Atias was sleeping in his seat on the bus when he was attacked.
Passengers on the bus, which was en route from Nazareth Illit to Tel Aviv and had stopped at the Afula station, captured the stabber and turned him over to security guards, who in turn delivered him to police.
“The bus stopped and people had stepped out,” an eyewitness who gave her name as Yaffa told Channel 2. “A female soldier was left on the bus, along with the soldier [who was stabbed] and the terrorist. Suddenly the female soldier started screaming for help, she ran outside, she was shaking. The terrorist had stabbed the soldier, he was covered in blood.”
Atias enlisted only two weeks ago and was still in basic training. He was traveling to his base on Wednesday morning after a sick leave. He was survived by his parents and two brothers, aged 24 and 18. His mother, Ilia, was quoted by Walla as saying that he had insisted on volunteering for a combat unit.
The attacker is a 16-year-old Palestinian resident of Jenin who did not have a permit to work or reside in Israel, according to police.
Police’s Northern District Commander Roni Atti said “police had no specific alerts regarding the attack, though general warnings exist at all times. The terrorist boarded the bus and it is unclear whether he originally intended to commit the stabbing or if he was on his way to work. He eventually stabbed the soldier sitting beside him.”
“We heard shouting in the bus, and screaming,” Tomer, a worker at a nearby kiosk who witnessed the attack, told Yedioth Ahronoth. “Soldiers then jumped [the attacker], I saw them take him off the bus and then security guards waited with him. He looked like a child.”
The assailant, according to Israel Radio, told his interrogators that he sought to avenge two of his family members who are jailed in Israel for terrorist activities. The killer said he was enraged by the fact that his extended family was not allowed to visit his relatives. Reports indicated two of his family members are in jail for convictions related to the murder of Israelis. His father and a brother were reportedly arrested later Wednesday.
Defense officials and analysts have warned in recent weeks that the West Bank may be heading for another violent uprising, citing a rise in the number of rock-throwing and Molotov cocktail attacks.
On Monday, former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said the Palestinians were ripe for a third intifada. However, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that recent attacks were isolated incidents, insisting that “there is no sign of a popular uprising or so-called third intifada.”
Afula, located some 10 kilometers (6 miles) inside the Green Line in the Jezreel Valley, has been hit by multiple terror attacks over the years. In a 2001 shooting in the city’s central bus station, where Wednesday’s stabbing occurred, three people were killed and 18 were wounded.
Last month, a Palestinian man pulled a knife on a public bus outside Jerusalem and threatened passengers before fleeing the scene.