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Israel Threatens Retaliation After Deadly Palestinian Attack - 2002-11-11

Israeli military officials have warned that they will retaliate for the murder overnight of five Israelis by a Palestinian gunman. The victims included a mother and her two young sons, who were shot dead as she read them a bedtime story.

A distraught man walked through the house on an Israeli kibbutz, or collective farm, in disbelief.

Captured on videotape by Israeli television, the boys' father and their mother's ex-husband, Avi Ohayon, entered the toy-filled bedroom where his family was gunned down.

He surveyed the blood, a splintered door and bullet holes in the walls before collapsing at the sight of discarded pacifiers.

"God help me," he wailed. "A child with a pacifier, they killed a child with a pacifier."

Israel's Channel One English news reported "Ohayon was found lying on one of the beds in the children's room, holding one of the boys in her arms." The report also said, "Avi Ohayon, ex-husband of Revital and father of the two children, arrived at the kibbutz about an hour after the attack. He said he was talking to Revital on the phone, when he suddenly heard screaming, and then the line was cut."

Mr. Ohayon's sons were four and five years old.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, claimed responsibility for the attack at Kibbutz Metzer. The gunman also killed two other people in the kibbutz, before fleeing back into Palestinian territory, just about one kilometer away.

As the powerful videotape was shown on Israeli television, senior army commanders met to plan a response.

Members of the kibbutz held a meeting Monday in efforts to come to grips with the deadly attack.

Many lit candles and visited the scene of the tragedy, while others returned to the farming fields in an effort to get life back to normal.

Karen Gat, a resident, said the attack threatens to ruin the peaceful co-existence the kibbutz members had shared with their Arab neighbors. "It's a very difficult feeling. We have always felt that we have a relative, secure feeling with our neighbors, and that has been destroyed for us. The feeling now is that we are not safe in our own homes," she said.

Senior Palestinian spokesman Yasser Abed Rabbo condemned the killings. "The Palestinian leadership denounces the attack against Israeli civilians. We consider this as a crime and to undermine all the efforts that aim at a renewal of co-operation and joint action between the representatives of the Palestinian people and the peace camp inside Israel," Mr. Rabbo said.

Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner, rejected the comments and placed the blame for the massacre firmly on the Palestinian Authority and its leaders.

"An entire Israeli family was wiped out. We have knowledge that other terrorist operations are now being prepared. We have 60 warnings [of such attacks]. It is obvious that the Palestinian Authority has become a full-fledged factory for terrorism," Mr. Pazner said.

Israel Radio reports that new Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz will seek government approval for a military response.