'Trusting' soldier lured to his death by Palestinian co-worker
Despite working together at a Bat Yam restaurant, Beit Amin resident Nidal Amar, 42, did not hesitate to lure IDF soldier Tomer Hazan to his West Bank home, murdering him in cold blood • Amar's motive: trading the body for his jailed brother.
Lilach Shoval, Daniel Siryoti and Shlomi Diaz
IDF soldiers recover Hazan's body from a well near Qalqilya on Saturday
Photo credit: AFP
IDF Sergeant Tomer Hazan
Photo credit: Courtesy of Hazan's family
A Palestinian man lured 20-year-old IDF Sergeant Tomer Hazan to the West Bank and murdered him, dumping his body in a well, Israeli security officials said on Saturday.
The two had been acquaintances, working together at a restaurant in Bat Yam. Nidal Amar, 42, apparently intended to use Hazan's body as a bargaining chip to try and secure the release of his brother, who is serving a prison sentence in Israel. Hazan's body was recovered on Saturday morning near the Palestinian city of Qalqilya, in the West Bank.
Security forces arrested Amar, the principal suspect in the case, along with several of his family members Saturday morning. Local residents said the IDF held their village on lockdown during the raid.
Amar admitted to murdering the soldier shortly after his arrest.
Security forces began pursuing the case on Friday night around 10 p.m. after the Shin Bet security agency was notified about a missing soldier. Acting on the report, the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet launched a search for the missing soldier.
The IDF's Duvdevan undercover unit and the Israel Police Counterterrorism Unit followed a Shin Bet lead and began detaining individuals to try and locate the soldier. Special forces raided the Amar family home in Beit Amin, a small Palestinian rural village southeast of Qalqilya in the northern West Bank, arresting Amar and his brother. Amar admitted to murdering the soldier during Shin Bet questioning.
Amar had been working with Hazan at a restaurant in Bat Yam. On Friday morning, he picked up the soldier -- who was not on duty at the time -- and traveled with the him by taxi to the settlement of Shaarei Tikva, which is located near Beit Amin.
Amar was apparently working illegally in Israel, though he was in the process of applying for a family reunification entry. Hazan was serving in an administrative position on an air force base.
Amar told interrogators that he convinced Hazan to travel with him back to his home in Beit Amin. Once in the West Bank, he lured Hazan to an open field north of the Saniriya village just east of Beit Amin and murdered him, dumping his body in a well.
Amar said he intended to "trade" the soldier's body for another of his brothers -- Nour Al-Din Amar -- who is serving out a prison sentence in Israel.
Meanwhile, some 200 people gathered on Saturday outside the Bat Yam steak and grill, "Tzahi Besarim," where Hazan and Amar worked together, demanding that the owner refrain from employing any Palestinians in the future.
The owner, Tzahi Antebi, claimed he did not know Amar was working in Israel illegally. He pointed a finger at the Shin Bet for allowing the Beit Amin man to pass freely into Israel.
"In any case, we're in pain over our boy who was murdered, so please don't add to the pain. Tomer was like a son to me. I never hired illegal workers. Several people knew Nidal. I'm surprised at the Shin Bet, that they gave this employee approval without warning me that his brother was in jail in Israel. My family and I are in shock. We all worked with Nidal day in and day out, he never showed any signs of hating Jews," Antebi said.
A senior officer from IDF GOC Central Command said on Saturday that Amar acted alone and was not affiliated with any terrorist organization.
"There's a national context and motivation, but there are criminal elements," the official said. "There's a constant stream of kidnapping attempts. We've thwarted dozens of other cases since the beginning of this year. It's very important not to be tempted or trust hostile individuals, especially near the West Bank."
'Tomer's faith in people cost him his life'
Tomer Hazan's family was devastated on Saturday to receive the news of his murder. Dozens of relatives and friends flocked to the family's Bat Yam home to try and console his parents, Sarah and Aryeh, and his three siblings.
"What was he doing there? Why didn't he tell anyone where he was going? We would have talked him out of it," one of his relatives told Israel Hayom. "That was Tomer. A lovely, trusting person. His faith in people cost him his life."
The soldier was a graduate of the Hashmonaim High School in Bat Yam and served at the Palmachim Air Force Base. He had a part-time job at the local Bat Yam restaurant near his home, where he had met the man who would eventually murder him.
"The man who killed Tomer planned it, he knew Tomer was a soldier," another relative said. "They should never have let him enter Israel without checking whether or not he was related to a convicted terrorist. It's about time that no one in Bat Yam, or anywhere else for that matter, hire people who are related to terrorists," she said.
"You couldn't help but love Tomer -- that's why so many of us are here now," Eliran, who served alongside Hazan, said. "This is a horrible tragedy. We are all devastated. It's very symbolic that we are all here, a mere hour after learning of his death, and it's raining. The sky is crying for him."
Herzl Eliyahu, one of the Hazan family neighbors, told Israel Hayom, "Tomer was a kind young man. This is so tragic. The family's life will never be the same."