Fri, Nov 21, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Jordanian trucker slays tourist at border crossing


A Jordanian truck driver opened fire at a crowd of tourists crossing into Israel on Wednesday, killing one and wounding four, in an attack near this Red Sea resort that until now has been untouched by three years of Mideast violence. The gunman was killed by Israeli security personnel.

Jordanian officials condemned the attack and said the gunman, who came from a predominantly Palestinian town, was not connected to any organized armed group.

But Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz called the attack "part of the recent long and painful string of terror attacks in which world terror groups were involved."

Arieh Zaks, manager of the open-air Rabin border crossing, said the driver was known to officials on both sides of the border. The man drove a cattle truck and entered Israel about once a month, Zaks told Israel TV.

Israel Radio said the man, who had wrapped his gun in a blanket, raised suspicion when he got out of the truck. Israeli guards shot him six times while he was still on the Jordanian side of the border.

"We heard the shooting, at first we lay down on the floor, then we tried to evacuate the tourists," said a border crossing worker who refused to give her name.

"We have been trained for something like this, but I never imagined it could really happen," she said.

Israeli officials said five Ecuadorean Christian pilgrims were wounded. One of them, a 33-year-old woman, died from a head wound nine hours later at Soroka hospital in Beersheba, hospital spokesman Irit Didi. The name of the tourist was not released.

The tourists were part of a group of 39 Ecuadorean pilgrims who were touring Middle East holy sights, said Yossi Zeldish, an official from Palmer Tours who organized their trip. The pilgrims were returning from sites in Jordan and were due to cross from Eilat into Egypt yesterday to visit St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai desert, Zeldish said.

Israel's Tourism Ministry said Israel and Jordan had agreed to intensify security at the border and increase joint patrols.

Jordanian Minister of State Asma Khader said her government condemned the incident.

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