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Police Arrest Palestinian Suspect

September 3, 1999

JERUSALEM (AP) _ An Israeli Arab has been arrested for killing two young Israelis hiking in a forest, police said Thursday, calling the slaying politically motivated.

Police identified the suspect as Abdullah Agbariah, 20, from the village of Mushreifa, near the scene of Sunday’s killing. He was detained Wednesday, but police banned publication of the arrest.

On Thursday he was taken to the scene of the murder, where he re-enacted the crime for police investigators, police said. He told them that his motive was to kill Jews, they said.

``The murder was committed just because they were Jews,″ said police investigator Eli Lipman. He said additional arrests were expected.

Yehiel Shai Fuenfter, 26, and Sharon Steinmetz, 21, were killed while walking in the Megiddo forest in northern Israel, near the West Bank. Their bodies were found Monday.

The extremist Palestinian Hamas claimed responsibility for the killing in a leaflet sent to news agencies, but it is impossible to authenticate such messages. Hamas opposes peace with Israel and has carried out large-scale terror attacks in the past to try to stop peace talks.

Agbariah told police that he is a member of the Islamic movement of Israeli Arabs, Israel radio said. The movement, unlike its counterparts in the West Bank and Gaza, is nonviolent.

Politically motivated attacks against Jews by Israeli Arabs are rare, but there is considerable sympathy among Israeli Arabs for Palestinian demands for an independent state.

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