Sunday, November 30, 2008
Mumbai horror: Rescue workers shocked by Chabad massacre site
Victim identification forces describe terrifying scene at Mumbai Jewish center; ZAKA officials encounter bound bodies, scattered prayer books, live grenades. Rabbi's wife apparently murdered early on, body found draped in prayer shawl
Israel Police forensic teams will be heading to Mumbai Sunday on an Air Force plane in order to offer their assistance in identifying the remaining bodies in the Chabad House massacre. fficials are saying that eight or nine people were murdered at the Jewish center. Six bodies have been identified so far – five Israelis and a Jewish Mexican national.
The names of the five Israeli victims have been cleared for publication:
* Rivka Holtzberg
* Gavriel Holtzberg
* Leibish Teitlebaum
* Bentzion Chroman
* Yocheved Orpaz
Shuki Brif, a member of the ZAKA disaster victim identification force sent to Mumbai, recounted the horrifying scenes at the site of the massacre.
"When we entered the Chabad House, we saw a home completely ruined by hand grenades. The building was completely destroyed and we saw live grenades on the floor. It was a shocking sight. Prayer books and many other objects were all over the place. It was a shocking sight even for a veteran ZAKA member."
"The bodies of the rabbi and the kashrut observers were in one room. Two more bodies were bound with phone cords," Brif said. "The body of the rabbi's wife was draped in a prayer shawl. We estimate that she died earlier, and the rabbi covered her. We removed the bodies that could be removed. Later, security forces continued to neutralize the explosives, and only after that we continued to remove the bodies.
ZAKA members say they insisted that the bodies would not be subjected to an autopsy. "We explained to the Indians how important it was for us not to perform an autopsy and not to touch the bodies," one ZAKA official said. "We were arguing over this until nighttime." For the time being, ZAKA members are staying at the massacre site to watch over the remaining bodies.
Meanwhile, Israel's Ambassador to India Mark Sofer told Ynet about the difficult moments he experienced.
"We, and India as a whole, went through difficult days. The result is very grave for the Israelis and Jews who were murdered," he said. "If I'm not mistaken, more Israelis were murdered than any other foreign nationality."
"The most important thing for us is to complete the identification of the bodies," Sofer said, while praising the work of Israeli diplomatic officials in recent days.
"Everyone performed amazingly…even though they did not sleep for three days," he said. "The two consul generals from Mumbai and Delhi traveled between hospitals constantly in order to look for Israelis. Later, they examined hundreds of bodies, including ones in very difficult condition, in order to identify Israelis. This isn't an easy situation for anyone, and particularly for people who are not used to it."
Adva Naftali and Roni Sofer contributed to the story