2 Israeli families find common bond in death Hamas cell accused of killing their children and nine others

April 13, 1997|By Ann LoLordo | Ann LoLordo,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

SURIF, Israeli-Occupied West Bank -- For Yehudit Dasberg and Hannah Edri, this Palestinian village is a den of murderers.

The body of Edri's son was found in an olive grove here Thursday, the victim of an Islamic terrorist group that Israeli security officials allege also murdered 10 other Israelis, including Dasberg's daughter, Efrat, and her son-in-law, Yaron Ungar.

The arrest of five suspected members of the Hamas terrorist cell last week ended an agonizing seven months for the Edri family -- Staff Sgt. Sharon Edri was last seen Sept. 9 at a military medical clinic. It brought some relief to the Dasberg family, whose children were killed in a drive-by shooting June 9.

In a land accustomed to national mourning for each of its slain children, the breakup of the cell also brought the two mothers together. They were strangers until Thursday evening, when Dasberg learned that the men accused of murdering her daughter and son-in-law also allegedly kidnapped and killed young Sharon.

Dasberg and her husband, Uri, a rabbi, drove to the Edri house to offer condolences to the other grieving Israeli family. Until Israeli security forces unearthed Edri's body from a shallow grave, his family clung to the hope that he might still be alive.

Military officials say now that Edri was kidnapped while hitchhiking. One of the suspects led Israeli security officials to the soldier's grave.

Yehudit Dasberg knows what Hannah Edri feels. She wanted to help ease her pain. She talked to the family about the way she has dealt with her own grief. Dasberg told the Edri family: Don't let the sadness control your lives.

"I told her that her son died but his spirit, all his kindness, all his achievements are alive," said Dasberg, 50, who lives in the Gush Etzion settlement not far from Surif. "All the smiles he gave to his friends are here with us. There are people who die with the body of their beloved. You don't have to do that."

Raising their grandsons

The Dasbergs were able to go on, in part, because they are now raising their daughter's two sons, Yishai, 1 1/2 , and Devere, 2.

Efrat and Yaron Ungar were driving to the Dasberg home to pick up Devere when the shooting occurred. Their youngest son was in the car with them.

Dasberg said she didn't cry over her daughter's death. She responded in a different way. Efrat Ungar was a graphic artist. Dasberg is compiling her daughter's art in a book. It's her way of coping -- and keeping Effi's spirit alive.

Hannah Edri thanked Yehudit Dasberg.

"Now what connects us to them is the same murderers. Maybe their murder could have been spared had our government done enough to capture our murderers at the time," said Dasberg, who raised seven children.

Shlomi Edri, the brother of the dead soldier, said Israeli police should have done more to try and find his 20-year-old brother. After an initial search with helicopters and vehicles failed to turn up anything on the soldier, officials suspected he might have committed suicide or fled because he was unhappy in the army.

Palestinians helped find body

The discovery of his body was made with the help of Palestinian security forces, despite weeks of Palestinian unrest and the virtual shutdown of the Middle East peace process. But yesterday the Edri family could not be consoled.

"The Palestinian authority arrested the murderers only when they needed to gain points from the United States," said Shlomi Edri, referring to the Clinton administration's attempts to broker an end to the peace stalemate. "It's sad that 11 Jews had to be killed until the group was arrested."

The village of Surif remained under a curfew and military closure Friday. The Israeli army first entered the village two weeks ago after a terrorist bomb exploded in a Tel Aviv restaurant March 21, killing three women and the suspected bomber who lived in the village.

Israeli security and military officials now believe that the suspected bomber didn't intend to kill himself in the incident. They say the timing device misfired and Musa Ghanimat, a father of four, died accidentally.

Israeli security forces, along with the army, raided the village Thursday and found Edri's body and rounded up 18 suspects.

Palestinian and Israeli forces each arrested two suspected members of the Hamas cell allegedly responsible for 11 Israeli deaths between late 1995 and March 21.

Israeli forces sealed the homes of three terrorist suspects yesterday. Palestinian forces arrested a fifth suspect in Bethlehem.

The streets of Surif were nearly deserted yesterday. Residents remained in their houses or gathered on porches and rooftops.

Collective punishment

Some complained of food shortages because of the closure. Others objected to the collective punishment imposed on the village's 18,000 residents.

"The soldier was buried here. They found it. They took it out. It should be over," said Ayyoub Jamal, 24, a resident of Surif.

Ishaq Baradiyah, a teacher who lives in Surif, said he could not condone what the suspected terrorists did. Neither would he condemn it.

"We have occupation. As long as we have occupation," said the teacher, "we must have resistance."

When Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu paid a condolence call on the home of Yehudit and Uri Dasberg in June, the couple told him they were not interested in personal revenge. They wanted the terror to stop. The best way to do that, they said, is to build a settlement every time an Israeli is killed by terrorists.

"You want to uproot us," she said, referring to the terrorists. "We deepen our roots in the country."

Pub Date: 4/13/97

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