Jewish Radicals Freed After Serving Part Of Term
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Three Jewish radicals were freed Wednesday after serving less than seven years for killing three Arabs and maiming two Palestinian mayors in car bombings. They were greeted as heroes by fellow Jewish settlers.
The three, members of the Jewish Underground that carried out attacks in the West Bank in the early 1980s, had their original life sentences reduced three times by Israeli President Chaim Herzog. They were released on good behavior.
In the occupied Gaza Strip, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian after he stabbed three soldiers on patrol in the Shati refugee camp, the army said.
Doctors at Gaza’s Shifa hospital said the Palestinian was shot more than 30 times. Palestinian reports identified him as Ala Abdul-Latif Obeid, 30, from Shati.
The army reported two of the stabbing victims were in moderate condition and the third was slightly injured.
Brig. Gen. Shmuel Zucker, division commander in the Gaza Strip, noted that the attack followed a rash of stabbings that have been ″grabbing headlines.″
″Everyone who intends to hurt an army patrol tries to do this with a knife when he can’t get a gun,″ he told army radio.
The death brought to 780 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers or civilians during the 3-year-old uprising against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
At least 322 Palestinians have been slain by fellow Arabs, most on suspicion of helping Israel. Fifty-seven Israelis also died in the violence.
Dozens of West Bank settlers danced and chanted outside Maasiyahu Prison in the central Israeli town of Ramle as the three former members of the underground - Menahem Livni, Shaul Nir and Uzi Sharbav - were released.
Members of the crowd hoisted the three men on their shoulders, and Noam Arnon of the Gush Emunim settler movement praised them for their love of Israel.
″They are heroes because they decided to sacrifice themselves, their future, their families, for the security of Jews,″ he said on Israel radio.
Tiran Pollock, a leader of the anti-Arab Kach movement, said on army radio that the underground created a spirit taken up by other Israelis. ″You see it on the streets ... you see it more and more. The underground has only begun,″ he said.
About a dozen Israeli liberals held a counter-demonstration to protest that the early release of the men would encourage attacks on Arabs.
″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 attorney general.
Left-wing legislator Yossi Sarid also condemned the early release.
″What I conclude from this is that in order to be a murderer and then to go home peacefully after a very short time ... the most important thing is that you kill an Arab ... and in this way you turn a lawful government into a joke,″ Sarid said on Israel television.
The three settlers were the last of 27 members of the Jewish Underground to be freed from prison.
The group carried out car bombings that blew the limbs off two West Bank mayors, Bassam Shaka of Nablus and Karim Halaf of Ramallah, and a grenade and gun attack that killed three students and wounded 30 others at Hebron’s Islamic College.
Failed attempts to bomb five Arab buses and blow up the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam’s holiest monuments, were also blamed on the group.
Livni, the leader of the group, was asked by Israel radio Wednesday if he was sorry for his actions.
″The use of the word regret in this case is childish,″ he replied. He said he acted because of the government’s failure to combat Arab terror.
Herzog reduced the sentences of the three men to 24 years, then 15, then 10. After announcing the last reduction in 1989, the president’s spokesman said Herzog was ″convinced that the three had expressed unambiguous and honest regrets.″
Two weeks ago, a parole committee cut the terms by another third for good behavior. In Israel, a life sentence usually means the inmate must serve at least 20 years.
Livni was convicted of masterminding the car bombings, and Nir and Sharbav were found guilty of the Hebron attack. They were arrested in April 1984 and convicted in July 1985.
Shaka, who is wheelchair-bound after losing his legs in the explosion, said Wednesday that the early release was part of Israeli government policy to ″encourage extremists to act against Palestinians.″