Three Jewish Settlers Who Killed Arabs Win Early Release
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Three Jewish West Bank settlers were freed from prison today after serving less than seven years of a life term for killing three Palestinian students and maiming two West Bank mayors in the early 1980s.
Scores of chanting and dancing settlers carried the three on their shoulders out of Maasiyahu Prison in the central Israeli town of Ramle.
Dozens of Israeli jurists and lawmakers outside the prison protested the release, saying it will encourage Jewish extremism.
In the occupied Gaza Strip, meanwhile, troops shot and killed a Palestinian today after he stabbed three soldiers patrolling the Shati refugee camp, the army said.
Palestinian reports identified the slain man as Ala Abdul-Latif Obeid, 30, from Shati. Doctors at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital said he was shot at least 30 times.
His death brought to 780 the number of Palestinians killed by Israelis during the 3-year-old uprising against the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Another 322 Palestinians have been slain by fellow Arabs, most on suspicion of helping Israel. Fifty-seven Israelis also died in the violence.
Two of soldiers who were stabbed were in fair condition at Tel Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv and the third was treated for a minor wound at Soroka Hospital in Beersheva, the army spokesman’s office said.
The three settlers freed today were the last of a 28-member cell called the ″Jewish underground″ to be released from prison.
The group carried out bombings and attacks aimed at Palestinian officials, mosques and the Islamic College in the occupied West Bank.
Menahem Livni, the leader of the group who was released today, said he was not sorry for what he did, though officials who reduced the sentences had said the three settlers expressed remorse. ″The use of the word regret in this case is childish,″ Livni told Israel radio after he left prison with the two other convicted settlers, Shaul Nir and Uzi Sharbav.
Livni and other settler leaders claimed the group was pushed to violence because the government didn’t crack down hard enough on Palestinian militants.
″There is a grave shortcoming in the way the government is dealing with Arab terror. This shortcoming has persisted for 10 years,″ Livni said.
In Israel, a life sentence usually means the inmate must serve at least 20 years. There is no death penalty, except for Nazi war crimes.
President Chaim Herzog reduced the sentences of the three men to 10 years in 1989 after being ″convinced that the three had expressed unambiguous and honest regrets,″ the president’s spokesman said at the time.
Two weeks ago, a parole committee cut the terms by another third for good behavior.
″This is a message of contempt for human life, of making a difference between one type of life and another, and it violates the basic tenet of equality before the law,″ said Yitzhak Zamir, a former Israeli attorney general protesting outside the prison.
The three settlers released today had been jailed since they were arrested in April 1984. All three were convicted in July 1985.
Livni was convicted of masterminding three June 1980 car bombings that maimed two West Bank mayors, Bassam Shaka of Nablus and Karim Halaf of Ramallah, and blinded an Israeli police explosives expert.
Shaka, wheelchair-bound after losing his legs in the explosion, said the early release was part of Israeli government policy to ″encourage extremists to act against Palestinians.″
Nir and Sharbav were found guilty of breaking into the Islamic College in the West Bank town of Hebron in July 1983, throwing a hand grenade and firing wildly. Three students were killed and 30 wounded in the attack.
Livni, who planned the attack on the college, said the victims ″were not innocent.
″The Islamic college is a hornet’s nest of terror, and there is nonstop incitement there,″ Livni said.
The ″Jewish Underground″ was also blamed for unsuccessful attempts to plant bombs on five Arab buses in east Jerusalem and to blow up the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam’s holiest monuments.