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Architect’s Slaying Shocks Israel

January 16, 2002

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JERUSALEM (AP) _ Avi Boaz, an Israeli architect who also had U.S. citizenship, used to weave in and out of the West Bank, oblivious of 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 an Israeli civilian 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 execution-style.

Boaz, 72, came to Israel from the United States in 1961.

Despite the political turmoil of the region, he struck up friendships with Palestinians, including the Arab Christian owners of the Everest Hotel in the West Bank town of Beit Jalla, said his daughter, Idit Cohen.

Boaz would eat lunch almost every day at the Everest, 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.

``We often quarreled about it, but he wouldn’t be persuaded″ to stay away from Beit Jalla, Cohen told Israel Army Radio.

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 a Palestinian friend drove to Beit Jalla to buy supplies for a home he was building in the nearby Jewish settlement of Har Gilo.

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.

``It was a clear and plain, indiscriminate, bloody murder,″ said Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The Al Aqsa Brigades militia linked to Palestinian leader Yasser 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. His daughter said her father often attended family celebrations of his Palestinian associates. ``He knew Beit Jala better than he knew Jerusalem. He worked there for many years. He trusted them, and always believed that things would turn out well,″ Cohen said.

Shortly after his arrival 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. The couple lived in the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim, near Jerusalem.

A neighbor, Rafi Martziano, 31, said he and others used to urge Boaz not to go to Beit Jalla.

``He would tell us, `you don’t need to worry about me _ it’s my family there,‴ said Martziano.

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