Police are searching for a Palestinian suspected of strangling seven people in Tel Aviv, and the case has led officials to reevaluate the policy that allows workers from the occupied territories to stay overnight in the city.
Police said the murders apparently stemmed from financial disputes between the suspect and his victims over drugs and prostitution, but they would not rule out that the motive might have been political.
The victims included prostitutes and drug dealers. Some were Jews and some Arabs from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The investigation began Friday when residents of an impoverished Tel Aviv neighborhood reported a smell coming from an apartment.
Police arrived to discover the decomposing bodies of two women and one man hidden under mattresses in the apartment.
They said the investigation led them to the Arab-Jewish Tel Aviv suburb of Jaffa, where the bodies of three women and one man were found in another apartment.
Asst. Inspector Gen. Yigal Markus, the Tel Aviv police chief, said the prime suspect is a Palestinian from the occupied territories who had a permit to spend the night in Tel Aviv.
Israel army radio said the victims apparently were strangled with a nylon string.
Police Commissioner David Krauss said Saturday that the policy of granting permits to Palestinian workers to spend the night will be re-examined.
"Tel Aviv should not serve as a haven for criminals from the (occupied) territories," he said.
Thousands of Palestinian workers travel each morning to Tel Aviv but need a special permit to stay the night. Many hide in apartments, warehouses or shelters to avoid the journey back home.
In the continuing unrest in the occupied territories, a gang of masked men believed to be Palestinians attacked the Gaza Strip home of a suspected collaborator Saturday, wounding a brother and sister, Palestinian sources said.
Also Saturday, an 18-year-old Palestinian youth shot during a confrontation with Israeli soldiers Friday died of his wounds at an Israeli hospital, the military said.