The Yediot Aharonot newspaper revealed Tuesday new details of the brutal murders of reservists Yossi Avrahami and Vadim Nurzhitz (z”l). The soldiers were lynched in Ramallah in October 2000.
The soldiers lost their way to their base on October 12, 2000, ending up in the Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled city of Ramallah by mistake. PA police forces took the two into custody.
Word reached local PA residents that undercover Israeli agents were being held in the building; some 1000 rioters reportedly gathered outside. The IDF declined to take action to rescue the soldiers; they were eventually stormed by the rioters.
One PA terrorist, Aziz Salha, got to the soldiers first, where he brutally murdered them – stabbing, beating, and dismembering them along with other rioters. He famously then stuck his bloodstained hands out of the window of the room where the two were held, eliciting cheers from the crowd.
The crowd then dragged the bodies to a central square, beating them further before setting up a victory celebration. PA police forces did not attempt to intervene and in some cases, participated in the barbarism.
A few weeks after the murder, the victims families filed a claim valuing 64 million shekels against the PA to the Jerusalem District Court. The victims were represented by attorneys Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Roy Kochavi.
Now, transcripts of the terrorists’ remarks recorded during those proceedings have been released for the first time.
Ra’ad A-Sheikh, a Ramallah cop spotted a red Ford Sierra approaching the station. He asked the soldiers what they were doing in the city.
“They told me they lost their way and they need to get to Beth-El,” he said. Beth-El is close to Ramallah and is home to several central army bases in control of the Judea and Samaria region.
“I led the soldiers into the police station, after the crowds outside the station began pressuring me,” he claimed.
The terrorist cop took the soldiers to the second floor of the station. “I took a length of iron pipe – about 25 centimeters or so – and went into the room where there were two reservists.”
“I saw the soldier was alive and on his feet. I went over to the Russian soldier, and beat him with the tube I was holding in my hands. I then punched him in the head until the soldier began making gurgling noises.”
PA policeman Tariq Tabesh also participated in the murder. “I saw a soldier on the floor, laying facedown, crying and saying things in Hebrew that I couldn’t understand,” he told investigators. “I hit him on the back three times.”
Salha told investigators that he entered the fray after seeing a car with an Israeli license plate parked outside the police station. Israeli cars bear yellow license plates; PA cars bear white plates.
Salha alleged that the crowd encouraged him to enter the station. “I saw an Israeli soldier laying there, on his stomach,” he stated.
“I approached him and I saw a knife in his back right shoulder,” he continued. “I took the knife from the back of the soldier and stabbed him in the back two or three times, and left the knife in his back. Others in the room continued to hit the soldier in the legs.”
“After stabbing the soldier, I put my hand over his mouth to strangle him. I saw that my hands were stained with blood and my shirt covered in blood at the bottom, then went to the window and I waved my hands to people in the yard,” he recounted.
“Then I returned from the window and saw the other soldier lying on his stomach in one corner of the room.”
The trial against the terrorists is apparently still going, enraging the victims’ families after over 13 years of waiting. Michael Nurzhitz, Vadim’s brother, stated to the daily, “If I could sue the legal system [for taking so long], I would.”
“As if it’s not enough that the people who did this have not been punished for all that they did.”
Aziz Salha was released in 2011, as part of the terrorist exchange orchestrated between the PA and Israel for Gilad Shalit.
Given the large number of people involved in the lynching, several of the participants have never been caught for the murders – or have been tried in court proceedings that have dragged on for equally as long.
Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner decried the length of the proceedings. “The Palestinian Authority has been exploiting its rights to a fair trial in order to conduct long discussions over nothing,” she stated.