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Israel Considers Crackdown on Jewish Militants


Israel is considering tough measures to forestall fresh attacks by Jewish extremists, after an army deserter shot and killed four Israeli Arabs on a bus on Thursday. Israeli Arab leaders are criticizing the government for failing to prevent the attack.

Fearing that Jewish extremists are planning more attacks against Arabs to try to thwart the upcoming pullout from the Gaza Strip, Israel is considering drastic measures. They include administrative detention, which means jailing suspects without trial. The controversial measure has been widely used against Palestinian militants, but now officials say it could be used against Jews. Government spokesman Mark Regev. "The state of Israel will do our maximum effort to prevent attacks like this in the future," he said.

Senior Israeli officials visited the Arab town of Shfaram in northern Israel where the attack took place, to pay condolences to the families of the victims. "Your sorrow is our sorrow," said Cabinet Minister Ofer Paz, "Your pain is our pain."

The attack was carried out by an Orthodox Jew, Eden Natan-Zada, 19, who deserted his army unit a few weeks ago in protest over the Gaza pullout. He joined a radical West Bank settlement, but the army did not track him down and confiscate his weapon.

Israeli Arab leaders meeting in Nazareth said the government did not do enough to prevent the attack, though the writing was on the wall. "The settlers should be disarmed," said Arab parliamentarian Mohammed Barakeh. Israeli security forces are adept at finding Palestinian bombers before they strike, he said, but they turn a blind eye to Jewish terror.

Meanwhile, no one wants to take responsibility for burying the attacker, who was labeled a "bloodthirsty terrorist" by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The army, the young man's home town and the settlement where he stayed are all refusing to hold a funeral. The parents plan to appeal to Israel's Supreme Court so their son can be laid to rest.

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