Tue, Jun 24, 2003 - Page 6 News List

West-Bank victim from US says Sharon should not retaliate

AP , JERUSALEM

Gene Goldstein, 73, from Plainview, New York, holds a drawing of support from a 5-year-old girl as he lays in his bed of the Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital.

PHOTO: AP

Pale and wincing in pain, Gene Goldstein recalled trying to steer a car with his dead son in the driver's seat after a Palestinian ambush on a West Bank highway. Despite his tragedy, the American said Sunday that Israel should not retaliate.

The 73-year-old New Yorker said he feared Israeli action might set off another round of revenge attacks amid escalating violence that is threatening a US-backed peace plan just weeks after it was launched at a June 4 summit in Jordan.

"I don't want to be responsible for any more Jews being killed," he said. "I only hope that maybe this could be the catalyst to signing a peace agreement."

Goldstein, who was shot three times, described the attack from his bed at Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital while waiting to learn the outcome of surgery to remove a bullet lodged in his wife's mouth.

The Goldsteins, both 73 and from Plainview, New York, had been staying with their son, Tzvi, and his wife, Michal, at their settlement of Eli in the West Bank since Tuesday.

Eli is one of about 150 Jewish settlements in the West Bank that Palestinians see as illegal encroachments on their land; the 220,000-odd settlers frequently are targeted by attacks.

It was the Goldsteins' third visit to Israel, where their son settled 15 years ago and acquired Israeli citizenship.

Tzvi Goldstein, 47, was driving Friday as the family headed to a celebration dinner in Jerusalem, the day after his son's wedding.

Near Ramallah, Gene Goldstein, a man with a graying beard and pleasant face, noticed two men in black garb, their backs turned to the vehicle.

"I paid no attention to them until they turned around, and they had weapons in their hands, and they started to fire at us," he said, speaking softly but steadily in a sunlit room decorated with bunches of yellow roses and other gifts from well-wishers.

"I was sitting in the front passenger seat, and my son was dead, and I couldn't move him, so I was just steering the car as best I could, because I was wounded as well."

As the car careered down the road, Gene Goldstein slammed on the horn to draw the attention of passing military trucks. But they had no idea what he was trying to convey.

Israeli rescue services said he managed to steer the car for about 10km after the attack before the vehicle overturned.

"I don't know how I survived the bullets, but to survive that crash ... there has got to be a God up there," he said.

A Hamas-linked Web site claimed responsibility for the shooting on behalf of the militant group.

As he finished recounting the tale, a nephew arrived with the news that his wife's surgery had been successful and she was in stable condition. Gene Goldstein smiled for the first time.

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