Wed, May 18, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Police foil plot by Israeli extremists


Jewish extremists talked of firing a missile at a key Islamic holy site in Jerusalem and hundreds of others blocked main highways with burning tires -- examples of how opponents hope to scuttle Israel's planned summer pullout from Gaza and part of the West Bank.

Israeli police and officials said Monday they interrogated three Jews who planned to buy a missile from criminals and fire it at the Dome of the Rock, the ancient gold-topped shrine on the same plaza as the al-Aqsa Mosque. Such an attack would likely ignite violence throughout the Middle East.

Officials admitted that hard evidence in the missile case was weak, but the highway protesters showed that even relatively small numbers can tie down police -- a main goal of the opponents. More than 300 people were detained, police said.

The Cabinet and parliament have repeatedly approved the pullout plan, driving opponents to desperate measures to stop it. Many are driven by messianic religious beliefs, rejecting the right of a temporal government to make policies.

In Jerusalem, police pulled flaming tires off a key road with crowbars, and in other places, they hauled the protesters themselves off the roads.

At the northern entrance to Jerusalem, two tires burned in the middle of the road, forcing motorists to slow to a crawl and drive on the sidewalks to pass the tires and the billowing black smoke.

Protester Shlomo Sternberg, waving a flag, believed the pullout would be canceled.

"I am sure that we will not see that dark, evil day the prime minister and government are planning," he told Channel Two TV.

Irate motorists shouted at the demonstrators, and a TV station showed one man punching a protester blocking the highway.

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