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Israelis mourn slain schoolgirls

March 14, 1997
Web posted at: 11:51 a.m. EST (1651 GMT)

BEIT SHEMESH, Israel (CNN) -- Grieving parents leaned on relatives and wails carried across the land Friday as thousands of Israelis attended the funerals of seven schoolgirls killed by a Jordanian soldier.

"If anyone thinks the murder of little girls will bring this people to its knees ... he does not know the strength that exists in each person standing here around me," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a funeral for four of the girls.

At the Fierst School, a religious school in Beit Shemesh, the classmates of the victims gathered Friday, sobbing and hugging each other for comfort. A special prayer service was also held for the slain classmates. Afterward, students split into small groups for counseling by social workers and psychologists.

Relatives of victim Adi Malka cried, "Adi, the beautiful."

Adi was fluent in sign language and served as her deaf parents' main link to the world. "The parents can't understand it," said Aviram, Adi's 13-year-old cousin. "They are having a very difficult time."

The schoolgirls, who ranged in age from 13 to 15, were killed Thursday when Ahmed Mousa Daqamseh, 28, a Jordanian soldier, opened fire on them during a field trip to the Jordan River's "Island of Peace."

Gunman interrogated

Military investigators in Jordan were interrogating Daqamseh Friday. Daqamseh's father described the son as having psychological problems and said police found tranquilizers on his boy when he was apprehended.

"He was always secluded and he looked always sad and lonely," Moussa, the elder Daqamseh, said of his son.

israel map

The gunman, a high school dropout, was drafted 12 years ago and worked as a driver in the army. He is married and has two sons and a daughter.

The gunman's mother said her son was mentally ill and begged for mercy from King Hussein, who condemned the attack and promised to carry out swift justice.

On Thursday morning, Daqamseh sat in an army jeep at an outpost on Naharayim, a manmade island that Israel returned to Jordan under their 1994 peace treaty and is a popular tourist spot for Israelis.

Since the shooting, there has been confusion about the name of the gunman, initially identified by Jordanian authorities as Lance Cpl. Ahmed Yousef Mustafa.

Acting Jordan Information Minister Nasser Lawzi said Friday there was no suggestion of a political motive behind the attack, which comes at a time of increased tensions between Israel and Jordan.

He said investigators may publish some preliminary findings in the next few days. He also said Israel had sent a military representative to work with Jordanian investigators. Lawzi did not give the gunman's name.

The gunman could face the death penalty if convicted. It is not immediately clear if he will be tried in Jordan military court or in the civilian judicial system.


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