Juan Ignacio Blanco  


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Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Revenge
Number of victims: 7
Date of murders: May 20, 1990
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1969
Victims profile: Male palestinians
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Rishon Lezion, Israel
Status: Sentence to seven life terms 1991. Commuted to 40 years 1999

Put on his army uniform and asked men waiting at a bus stop in a southern Israeli town for their identity cards. After confirming they were Arabs he lined them up and opened fire, killing seven.

He left the scene in a car belonging to one of the Palestinians, but was taken into custody after contacting police.


Ami Popper (Hebrew: עמי פופר‎; born 1969) is an Israeli convicted of murder.

Popper, a former dishonorably-discharged soldier, put on his army uniform on 20 May 1990 and asked men waiting at a bus stop in the Israeli town of Rishon Lezion for their identity cards. After confirming they were Arabs he lined them up and opened fire, killing seven. Within an hour, he was arrested by Israeli police.

After his act, Arab riots led to the deaths of seven more Palestinians, and 700 injured.

Israel Radio reported that Popper claimed to have been distraught because his girlfriend had decided to leave him. Later he told police that he had been raped by an Arab when he was 13 and had commited these killings out of shame and a desire for revenge.

Popper was charged and convicted of seven acts of murder in March 1991. In prison he became religious and in June 1993 he married a Canadian woman from a family of Kach activists. They had three children.

In February, 1999 Popper's sentence was commuted from seven life terms to 40 years. Currently he is expected be released on parole in 2023, after 33 years in prison.

On January 17, 2007, while on a 48-hour furlough, Popper was involved in a car accident caused by him crossing a solid line. His wife and one of his sons were killed in the accident. Popper himself was moderately injured. Israeli police reported that Popper's license had expired in 1999.


Israeli kills 7 Arabs, wounds 10

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

May 20, 1990

A 20-year-old Israeli armed with a U.S.-made M-16 assault rifle opened fire on a group of Palestinians waiting to go to work in a town south of Tel Aviv, killing seven and wounding 10, Israel radio said.

The radio report said the gunman apparently was a civilian. He left the scene in a car belonging to one of the Palestinians, but was taken into custody after contacting police, the radio said.


Shooting spree

San Jose Mercury News

May 20, 1990

An Israeli armed with a U.S.-made M-16 assault rifle opened fire today on a group of Palestinians waiting to go to work in a town south of Tel Aviv, killing seven and wounding 10, Israel radio said. It was the bloodiest attack by an Israeli against Arabs since the start of the 29-month-old Palestinian uprising. The radio said the gunman was a 20-year-old civilian. He escaped in a car belonging to one of the Palestinians, but was taken into custody after contacting police, the radio said.


Israeli kills 7 Arabs, hurts 11

The Miami Herald

May 21, 1990

RISHON LEZION, Israel -- An Israeli wearing a military uniform and armed with an automatic assault rifle opened fire Sunday on Palestinian workers, killing seven and wounding 11.

Within an hour of the killings, the suspected assailant -- a 21-year-old man -- was arrested. He was described in an Israel Radio report as distraught because his girlfriend had decided to leave him.


A bloody day for Israel

Former soldier kills 8 Arabs; 7 die, hundreds in riots

Detroit Free Press

May 21, 1990

RISHON LETZION, Israel -- An Israeli who was dishonorably discharged from the army shot and killed eight unarmed Palestinian laborers and wounded 10 on Sunday. Outraged Arabs rampaged through the occupied territories in clashes with Israeli troops that left at least seven more Palestinians dead and more than 650 injured.

Eleven Israeli soldiers were injured.


Gaza erupts as Israeli kills 8 Palestinians

The Washington Times

May 21, 1990

RISHON LEZION, Israel - A dishonorably discharged Israeli soldier armed with an assault rifle opened fire yesterday on a group of unarmed Palestinians, killing eight men and rekindling the 29-month-old uprising against Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

News of the unprovoked murders spread quickly through the occupied territories, setting off fierce clashes with Israeli troops that left seven more Palestinians dead and nearly 700 wounded.


Israeli murder charges

The Philadelphia Inquirer

June 19, 1990

A Tel Aviv court yesterday charged a 21-year-old Israeli with the murder of seven Palestinian laborers in an attack that set off clashes in which 20 other people died.

A five-man psychiatric panel rejected a contention that the suspect, Ami Popper, was unfit to stand trial, officials said.


Revenge motive

San Jose Mercury News

June 29, 1990

The Israeli who has reportedly confessed in Jerusalem to killing seven Palestinian workers last month now says the massacre was a premeditated act of personal revenge for a gang rape he suffered at the age of 12, according to a jailhouse note. The 21-year-old Israeli, Ami Popper, wrote that the leader of a gang that raped him in 1982 was among the Arabs he attacked May 20. The jailhouse account contradicts Popper's earlier reported statement to police that he shot the Arabs over a failed romance.


Israeli refuses to testify at trial

The Pittsburgh Press

July 9, 1990

The 21-year-old Israeli charged with the premeditated murder of seven Palestinian laborers in a burst of automatic rifle fire refused to speak as his trial opened today.

Judge Chaim Steinberg ruled that Ami Popper's silence amounted to a plea of innocent to charges he gunned down the seven Arabs and wounded 10 others on May 20 outside Tel Aviv.


Soldier admits killing 7 Arabs

The Press of Atlantic City

December 24, 1990

A cashiered Israeli soldier admitted in court Sunday that he shot and killed seven Arab workers seven months ago but said his actions resulted from mental illness, not criminal intent.

The killings May 20 in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Lezion set off three days of rioting in the occupied lands in which 13 Palestinians died from army gunfire, refueling the 3-year-old uprising against Israeli occupation.


7 Arabs slain to avenge rape, Court told

The Arizona Republic

December 28, 1990

A tearful Israeli told a court Thursday that he gunned down seven Arab workers from the occupied Gaza Strip in May to ''end the nightmare'' of his rape as a boy by Arabs.

Ami Popper, 21, taking the stand in his own defense, admitted killing the seven. But his lawyer said Popper was mentally ill and denied charges by prosecutors that he carefully calculated the slayings.


Israeli gets life term in killings

The Charlotte Observer

March 18, 1991

A court on Sunday sentenced an Israeli man to life in prison for shooting to death seven Palestinians in a massacre that touched off three days of rioting last spring.

The Tel Aviv District Court found 21-year-old Ami Popper guilty of seven murders and ordered him to serve seven life terms consecutively.

Israeli law does not provide for parole for prisoners serving life sentences. But they can seek a commutation from the president and become eligible for parole.


Israel cuts sentence for Jewish killer

The Sunday Times

February 4, 1999

Jerusalem: Israel yesterday commuted the lengthy prison terms of seven Jews convicted of murdering or plotting to kill Arabs, in a move that has angered the Palestinian Authority.

The prisoners included Ami Popper, who killed seven Palestinians in a wild shooting spree in 1990. From seven life sentences, his sentence has been reduced to 40 years. He could be eligible for release on parole after serving two thirds of that term.


Israeli killers' sentences reduced

BBC News

Thursday, February 4, 1999

The Israeli Government has cut the prison sentences of four Israelis jailed for murdering Palestinians and one convicted murderer is to be released.

One of the prisioners, Ami Popper, killed seven Palestinians in an shooting spree in 1990. His sentence has been reduced from seven life sentences to 40 years in prison.

Another prisoner, Nehemiah Mishbaum, who threw a grenade into an Arab butchers' market, killing one, will now walk free after 11 years.

Israel's justice minister told Israeli radio that the review of their sentences was justified because the government had released a number of Palestinian prisoners over recent years as a result of the peace process.

'Double standards'

Palestinian human rights activists have voiced their opposition to the policy saying Israel's position is that it will not release any Palestinian prisoners who "have Jewish blood on their hands".

The human rights activists say Palestinians who murder Israelis are charged in military courts and handed down severe sentences.

By contrast, they say, Israelis guilty of murdering Palestinians often claim self-defence and when they are charged, usually sit before regular courts which deal out lighter sentences.

The issue of prisoners was central to the recent stalling of the Wye peace accord. The Israelis had agreed to release 750 Palestinian prisoners, but the Palestinians complained that many of those who were actually released were common criminals.


Wife, son of Ami Popper die in collision

The wife and six-year-old son of convicted Jewish terrorist Ami Popper were killed Wednesday night when the car he was driving collided head-on with one full of tourists on the Arava Highway, 50 km. north of Eilat, police said.

Five others were injured - two seriously - including Popper's two other children. The identities of those in the second vehicle were not released to the press.

Popper, who was on a 48-hour furlough from prison, was moderately injured, while his son was pronounced dead at the scene. His wife, Sarah, 42, an American-born social worker affiliated with the Kahane Chai movement, was killed instantly.

Popper is serving 40 years at Ma'asiyahu Prison near Ramle. He was originally given seven life sentences - one for each of the seven Palestinian laborers he gunned down near Rishon Lezion on May 20, 1990.

The initial investigation suggests the three Popper children were sitting in the backseat without seat belts. Police said they believed that Ami Popper had been distracted by his children, causing him to veer into oncoming traffic.

Popper's driving license expired in 1999, police said.

According to traffic authorities, one of the vehicles, most likely Popper's, made a sudden move into oncoming traffic just before 9:30 p.m., causing "one of the more horrific accidents we have seen... completely unnecessary." Magen David Adom medics treated casualties as firefighters extracted others from the wreckage. Two helicopters evacuated the most seriously injured to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.

After completing the first 10 years of his sentence, Popper was allowed furloughs. He reportedly left the prison grounds more than 120 times since 2000.

A police representative said that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Services), and not the Israel Prisons Service, was responsible for approving the frequency and durations of Popper's furloughs.

The Shin Bet referred questions about the accident to the Prime Minister's Office.

Ami Popper's shooting rampage rocked the nation and still resonates 16 years later. Popper, 21 at the time, arrived at the Rose Garden Junction between Rishon Lezion and Ness Ziona with an IDF-issued rifle that he had stolen from his younger brother. He lined up Arab workers at the junction, and even stopped a car with West Bank plates, making the passengers join the lineup that he then raked with gunfire, stopping several times to reload.

Seven people were killed and 10 were wounded in the attack, and riots broke out across the territories, leading to additional Palestinian deaths from IDF fire.

Following his arrest, Popper told police he shot the men after his girlfriend left him, only to say later that he was raped by an Arab during his childhood and had acted out of shame and a desire for revenge.



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