By Yaakov Katz, JPost
JERUSALEM — After months of quiet in the West Bank, a father of seven was killed in a drive-by shooting attack near the northern Samaria settlement of Shavei Shomron on Dec. 24.
The victim was identified as Rabbi Meir Chai, a 45-year-old resident of the settlement whose children range in age from two months to 18 years.
Chai was the fourth person killed by terrorists in the West Bank this year.
In March, two traffic policemen, Senior Warrant Officers Yehezkel Ramazreger and Chief Warrant Officer David Rabinovitch, were shot dead in the Jordan Valley.
In April, 13-year-old Shlomo Nativ was stabbed to death near his home in the Gush Etzion settlement of Bat Ayin.
Chai was driving in his minivan on Highway 57, between Shavei Shomron and Einav, when a Palestinian car overtook him and someone in the car opened fire.
Chai was hit in the head and drove off the road.
Gil Bismot, head of the Zaka rescue and recovery organization in Judea and Samaria, said several bullet holes riddled the car.
Im not a ballistics expert, but an automatic weapon seems to have been involved, Bismot told the Jerusalem Post.
At first, emergency services thought the incident involved a road accident. When our volunteers and security personnel arrived on the scene, it became clear that this was a shooting attack, he said.
Magen David Adom paramedics arrived quickly, but despite their efforts, were forced to pronounce Chai dead.
According to Palestinian reports, the Imad Mughniyeh Group named after the Hezbollah commander assassinated in Damascus two years ago claimed responsibility for the attack.
It also claimed to be affiliated with Fatahs Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade.
The group said its members withdrew from the area safely. It also warned of a series of attacks to come.
A SPOKESMAN for Shavei Shomron said that Chai had been a very well-liked and respected man who had contributed a great deal to the community, and that residents are very shocked, hurt and angry.
Chai was known for teaching Torah to students in Shavei Shomron and for his special kindness to children. He was the rabbi for kindergartens in the area.
Spokesman Nachson Yeshurun added that residents had expressed their anger not only at losing a friend, but also at the governments lifting of West Bank roadblocks to ease Palestinian freedom of movement, which many said led directly to last weeks attack and allowed the shooter to evade arrest.
MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the attack.
Ben-Ari said that the 10-month moratorium on settlement construction and a possible prisoner exchange deal to free IDF soldier Gilad Shalit indicated that Jewish blood has been forsaken.
Netanyahu is surrendering to terrorism, he said.
Meanwhile, enraged by the shooting attack, several youths from the Yitzhar settlement began hurling stones at the neighboring village of Burin, Judea and Samaria Police said.
Palestinians responded by throwing stones in the settlers direction, and a 14-year-old from Yitzhar was struck on the head, sustaining light to moderate wounds, police said. He was taken to Petah Tikvas Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus.
Ben Hartman, Yaakov Lappin and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.