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Architect’s Slaying Shocks Israel

January 16, 2002

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JERUSALEM (AP) _ Avi Boaz, a Brooklyn-born architect who lived in Israel for the past four decades, used to weave in and out of the West Bank, oblivious to the fighting that has been raging there for more than a year.

His death Tuesday _ he was abducted by Palestinian gunmen who pumped 20 bullets into his car _ was the first of a civilian on the Israeli side since Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said last month he would enforce a truce with Israel.

The killing shocked Israelis because of its cruelty, and prompted comparisons to last year’s attack on two Tel Aviv restaurant owners who were dragged out of a West Bank restaurant and shot dead execution-style.

Boaz, 71, came to Israel in 1961. His daughter, Edit Cohen, said her father was a Zionist, but never took on Israeli citizenship. In Israel, Boaz married his U.S.-born wife Eve, who died earlier this month of cancer. The couple divorced several years ago, but remarried about two weeks ago, several days before Eve’s death.

Despite the political turmoil of the region, Boaz struck up friendships with Palestinians, including Jamal al-Arja, owner of the Everest Hotel in the West Bank town of Beit Jalla.

Boaz would eat lunch almost every day at the Everest and sometimes sleep there, even after the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian fighting in September 2000.

Cohen said she feared for her father’s safety because several Israelis who had ventured into Palestinian territory had been killed by Palestinian militants in the past 16 months. ``I pleaded with him not to go,″ Cohen said. ``I told him I was very worried, but he just said `nothing will happen to me.‴

Cohen said her father would present his U.S. passport to get through Israeli military checkpoints ringing Palestinian areas; Israel has barred its citizens from entering Palestinian towns and villages for fear they will be attacked.

On Tuesday, Boaz and Bashir al-Arja, son of the Everest hotel owner, drove to Beit Jalla to buy supplies for a home he was building in the nearby Jewish settlement of Har Gilo, relatives of the victim said.

At a Palestinian police checkpoint, armed civilians pulled the Palestinian friend out of the car and four armed Palestinians got in, said army spokesman Lt. Col. Sharon Levy. Palestinian police at the checkpoint did not intervene, Levy said.

The car came to a stop near a soccer field in the neighboring town of Beit Sahour. The gunmen fired 20 bullets into the front windshield of the car, killing Boaz, and dumped the body in the soccer field. The body was later handed over to Israeli authorities.

The Al Aqsa Brigades militia linked to Arafat’s Fatah movement claimed responsibility for killing Boaz. The militia has pledged to avenge Monday’s killing of a local leader in a bomb blast widely attributed to Israel.

Boaz and his partner, a Palestinian engineer, had built many homes in the Bethlehem area. The Boaz and al-Arja families had attended each others family celebrations, including weddings, and Cohen recalled spending many weekends in Beit Jalla as a child.

Jamal al-Arja called the Cohens late Tuesday to express his sorrow, said Mrs. Cohen’s husband, Evyatar. The hotel owner told the family that ``they killed my brother, my brother is dead,″ Evyatar Cohen said.

Edit Cohen said she would never go back to Beit Jalla, and her husband said there was no hope for coexistence. ``If they killed him, there’s no chance for normal relations between us. We need to separate and that’s it,″ she said.

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