Jerusalem-----December 27.....On a quiet Friday night, as four yeshiva students were preparing a Shabbat dinner for their fellow students, an Arab Islamic terrorist broke into their village and gunned the boys down in cold blood. The barbaric terror attack took place in Otniel where terrorists opened fire and threw grenades into a dining hall. Ten other Israelis, including six Israel Defense Forces soldiers, were wounded in the attack. Two arab terrorists, both from the Islamic Jihad organization, were killed by IDF fire.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz ordered the IDF and the Shin Bet over the weekend to step up the targeted assassinations and arrests of wanted men in the territories.

Around 7:30 P.M. Friday, two Islamic terrorists from the nearby village of Dura in the Hebron area infiltrated Otniel from the settlement's west side. For the most part, Otniel is not surrounded by a fence; there is a relatively porous fence on the settlement's southwest side, near the yeshiva. The Arab terrorists chose to infiltrate the fenced-off area. They cut into the fence (even though it ends just a few dozen meters from the site of entry), and entered the settlement. The two men wore IDF army uniforms, carried M-16 rifles and were loaded with ammunition and grenades.

The yeshiva, located just a short distance from the fence, is a large, well-lit building, and the terrorists chose it as their target. At the time, dozens of yeshiva students were gathered in the ground-floor dining hall, waiting for the Friday night Shabbat meal. The two Arab Islamic terrorists began to spray the building with bullets from the outside; one managed to get inside, via a service entrance, and entered a kitchen area next to the dining hall.

Four unarmed yeshiva students were working in the kitchen at the time.
Shooting at short range, the Islamic terrorists murdered Noam After from Shilo, Gavriel Hoter from Alonei Habashan, Tvi Zeiman from Reut and Yehuda Bamberger from Karnei Shomron.

The Arab terrorists then tried to enter the dining hall, but found that the door was latched shut. Israeli security officials subsequently said that the locked door prevented an even more devastating attack, but they were unable to clarify who had locked the door.
One version has After locking the door before he was killed, to protect his yeshiva colleagues; his corpse was found close to the door. Alternatively, the men in the dining hall might have locked the door from their side. The terrorist, in any case, fired through the door, wounding five people in the dining hall, one seriously and the others lightly.
The wounded were taken to Beer Sheva's Soroka Medical Center and to Hadassah-Ein Kerem in Jerusalem.

Members of an IDF infantry unit whose battalion headquarters are located at Otniel, 500 meters from the yeshiva building, were quick to arrive at the scene and respond.

Deputy battalion commander "Major Salim," who was in charge of the battalion over the weekend, arrived with soldiers two minutes after the first terrorist bullets were fired. "The locked door and then the quick arrival of the soldiers, prevented a much bigger massacre at the yeshiva," army sources said this weekend.

During the gun battle, one of the terrorists was killed by IDF fire about 20 meters from the yeshiva, but his partner managed to flee. The deputy battalion commander and his communications officer were lightly wounded by the terrorists' shots.

Large IDF deployments, led by Hebron Brigade commander Colonel Hagi Mordechai, streamed toward the settlement. After a two-hour manhunt, the troops located the second terrorist in a nearby wadi, a few hundred meters southwest of Otniel. IDF troops circled around the terrorist, who shot and lightly wounded three soldiers. The terrorist was shot dead at close range by the soldiers.

Security sources said that a Hebron branch of the Islamic Jihad organization was responsible for the Otniel attack. The same Hebron cell, the sources add, was behind the November 15 strike at Hebron's "worshipers' path," in which 12 Israeli soldiers and security men were killed. Friday's two assailants studied with the three perpetrators of the mid-November attack at the same polytechnic college in Hebron.

Palestinian sources identified the two Otniel Arab terrorists as Ahmed al-Fakiyah and Mohammed Shahin. Apparently, as in the case of the November attack, neither Al-Fakiyah nor Shahin had been pursued as terror suspects by Israel prior to their assault at the Otniel yeshiva.

The IDF plans to demolish the family homes of the two Otniel terrorists. Responding to the Friday night attack, IDF troops yesterday demolished homes belonging to other terrorists from the Hebron area.