Thu, Jul 08, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Israel fears plot by Jewish extremists to kill Sharon over Gaza withdrawal

VIOLENT THREATS An urgent security meeting was scheduled yesterday to discuss the growing militancy among hardline settlers

AP , JERUSALEM

Israel's attorney general was to meet yesterday with the head of the Shin Bet security service to discuss a rise in violent threats by Jewish extremists resulting from Prime Minister Ariel Sha-ron's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, a Justice Ministry official said.

Attorney General Meni Mazuz was to hold an urgent meeting with Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter to see what kind of concrete threats exist at the moment and how the justice system can deal with the situation, Justice Ministry spokesman Yaakov Galanti said.

Mazuz called the meeting because "he wants to hear, he wants to know, he wants to examine the things," Galanti said.

Dichter sparked a political storm earlier in the week when he told Sharon's Cabinet he was concerned about growing militancy among hardline settlers.

The Mazuz-Dichter meeting follows a stark warning by Police Minister Tsahi Hanegbi that political violence could accompany a Gaza pullback, and an acknowledgment by Sharon that he could be at risk.

"They [extremists] will assassinate the prime minister, a minister, an army official or a police official," Hanegbi told Israel TV's Channel Two on Tuesday.

"They don't always succeed and they don't always have the means to carry out the acts. But we are not lacking extremists," Hanegbi said.

The threat of violence strikes a deep chord in Israel. Many politicians and security officials still blame themselves for ignoring the warning signs ahead of the 1995 assassination of then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by an ultranationalist Jew.

Carmi Gillon, who headed the Shin Bet when Rabin was assassinated, said Israeli officials need to deal "night and day" with the threats.

"The police minister is right. The next murder is at the door," Gillon told Israel's Army Radio.

Jewish extremists have recently made harsh statements against Sharon and his plan to withdraw from Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements by September next year.

A prominent Jerusalem rabbi said that anyone who gives up "Jewish land" should be condemned to death under Jewish law.

Gaza Strip settlers have held meetings with members of the outlawed Kach group -- which appears on the US State Department's list of terror groups -- to study ways to oppose Sharon's withdrawal plan. Kach members instructed them to use violence.

Other settlers have made clear that they could resort to violence in the case of an evacuation, and fears have risen that the planned pullout could become bloody.

"We are dealing with a number of complaints by a few people who said and wrote things that could be interpreted as incitement to violence but have not yet decided to press charges," Galanti said.

He refused to elaborate on the people or statements that were being investigated.

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