Violent Israeli movement seems to be re-emerging

September 09, 1995|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Jerusalem Bureau of The Sun

JERUSALEM -- A radical Jewish group claimed that its members shot and killed a Palestinian yesterday, suggesting re-emergence of the violent underground movement that has long worried Israeli authorities.

Five men dressed as Israeli soldiers broke into several Palestinian homes near Hebron, rousted the residents, tied up an elderly man and shot to death his son about 1 a.m., according to police reports.

The army said none of its soldiers was in the area.

Later yesterday, a group called Eyal, which means "ram" in Hebrew and is an acronym for "Fighting Jewish Organization," claimed responsibility for the killing.

"Eyal intends to step up the struggle in anticipation of the [peace] agreements" between Israel and the Palestinians, the group said in a statement sent to journalists.

Police have known previously of Eyal as a group based among the right-wing settlers of Kiryat Arba near Hebron, and an offshoot of Kach, a racist group officially declared a terrorist organization by Israel.

In March, police found a manual on paramilitary training written by Eyal on a Kiryat Arba demonstrator carrying a loaded pistol.

Israeli police and army officials were cautious about yesterday's claim, but they did not dismiss it.

"All avenues are being pursued," said Boaz Goldberg, a police spokesman. The claim "may possibly" be true, he said.

Palestinians in the town of Halhul, north of Hebron, said the intruders broke into six Palestinian homes early in the morning. The men were dressed as Israeli soldiers, and at least one wore a mask.

Hussein Salman al-Zamamra said the men demanded his identity card, and then handcuffed him behind his back. His son, Salman Hussein Salman al-Zamamra, 25, arrived at his house just then, the elder man told Voice of Palestine Radio.

"The soldiers fired two shots. I heard one and then the other. Then I saw my son on the floor." He had been shot in the head.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization's mainstream Fatah faction issued a statement claiming that "an Israeli soldier shot him without any provocation." The army said it had no knowledge of soldiers in the area and said the incident was carried out by "a number of unknowns in Israeli Defense uniforms."

Mr. al-Zamamra, identified as a Fatah activist, was buried yesterday as Palestinians announced a three-day strike.

Israeli authorities have long feared that the failure of the right wing to stop the progress of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations would result in violent opposition.

They are especially wary of such groups forming among the Jewish settlers of Hebron and adjoining Kiryat Arba, which was the focus of a Jewish underground of the early 1980s.

Members of that group tried to assassinate three Palestinian mayors in 1980, planted bombs on tourist buses and Arab playgrounds, made plans to try to blow up the Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine, and attacked students in an Islamic College in Hebron in 1983 with a grenade and machine guns, killing three and wounding 33.

About 25 of the group members were tried and convicted. But many were quickly released while still publicly boasting of their acts, and critics have long complained that the chief promoter of the group, Rabbi Moshe Levinger, remains free.

As Israel and the Palestinians have moved toward implementing their 1993 peace accord, which promises withdrawal of the Israeli army from Arab population centers in the West Bank, radicals on both sides have fought the peace process.

Since the Israel-PLO accord was signed two years ago, dozens of Israelis have been killed in terrorist attacks, including suicide bus bombs claimed by Hamas and other Islamic fundamentalist groups.

On the Jewish side, one of the bloodiest incidents was an individual act in which a Kiryat Arba settler, physician Baruch Goldstein, killed 29 worshipers at Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in February 1994.

Israeli authorities have been most worried by organized violence. In December 1993, a group calling itself the "Sword of David" claimed responsibility for the murder of three Palestinian workers near Hebron. They said the act was retaliation for the murder of a Hebron settler and his son.

In September and October 1994, police arrested 14 Jewish settlers, including an officer in an elite army unit, on suspicion of gathering weapons and plotting violence against Palestinians. Most were freed, although the charges revealed that Israel's intelligence service had begun infiltrating Jewish right-wing organizations.

Security reportedly has been increased around Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. Opponents often denounce both leaders as "traitors" and "murderers."

Mr. Rabin has fanned the anger of those opponents by publicly comparing them to Hamas, the Islamic radical group that has carried out a series of terrorist acts in opposition to the peace plan.

Baruch Marzel, a leader of the outlawed Kach movement, said in an interview yesterday by telephone from Hebron that Eyal is "more radical than Kach." Kach was declared a terrorist organization by the government in March 1994.

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