|Site of the Friday afternoon murders, near Otniel [Image Source: EPA]|
Times of Israel reports that Rabbi Ya’akov Litman, 40, and his son Netanel, 18, were murdered in the shooting attack around 3:00 pm Friday near the Jewish community of Otniel. They along with other members of the family, residents of the Kiryat Arba community, were driving from their home to Meitar, near Be'er Sheva, for what sounds to us, from the vague description in the news reports, to be a Shabbat Hatan, the celebration of the upcoming wedding (set for November 17) of their daughter and sister. She was evidently not in the family van. Instead of a welcome, joyous and presumably long-awaited celebration, the Litmans and their family and friends have had to arrange a funeral for the father and son in Jerusalem tonight.
The other family members in the van were the wife and mother, a 16-year-old son and three young daughter aged 11, 9 and 5, according to Haaretz. All were lightly hurt with bruises and shrapnel injuries. Based on our familiarity with Jewish custom, the fourth daughter preparing for her wedding was very likely spending the Shabbat in or near her home with friends.
Haaretz says the gunman was waiting by the side of the road for any Israeli vehicle to drive by. Investigators found 14 bullets had been fired at the Litmans. The shooter fled, and a search has been underway since last night, focusing on the Palestinian Arab towns of Yatta and Dhahiriya.
Times of Israel says Ya’akov Litman, the driver, was wounded by the gun fire, swerved into the opposite lane, and crashed into rocks at the side of the road. Netanel called rescue services but was then also shot dead. A Channel 2 news report quoted by the news site says that after this, one of the gunmen came closer and fired additional bullets after killing the father and son.
A younger son then called the Magen David Adom hotline to report the attack, reporting as well that a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance had just driven past the scene of the attack, and had deliberately ignored them and failed to stop. (Israel is said to be filing a protest with the International Committee of the Red Cross about this. Israelis are holding their breaths waiting for a robust response from Geneva. Not.) Haaretz says the MDA team reached the scene soon afterwards, pronounced the father and son dead at the scene, and rushed the other family members to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva.
There are reports tonight that the murders were celebrated publicly by Hamas via social media.