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Israel Arrests 6 Suspected of al-Qaida Links

  • Robert Berger

Israeli intelligence says it has arrested six people suspected of links to al-Qaida, including one who allegedly inquired about shooting down a helicopter carrying U.S. President George Bush. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Israel's Shin Bet security service has arrested six Arab men with suspected links to the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaida. Two of the men were Israeli Arabs and the other four were Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem with Israeli ID cards.

The Shin Bet says one of the Israeli Arabs was a student at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and his dormitory room overlooked a helicopter landing pad used by President Bush on a trip earlier this year. Shin Bet says the student took pictures of the landing area, and allegedly contacted an al-Qaida Web site about shooting the president's helicopter down.

The involvement of Arab citizens and residents of Israel is a cause for concern here because, unlike Palestinians, they have freedom of movement around the country.

Palestinian analyst Wadia Abu Nasser says the problem is that Arabs in Israel feel like second-class citizens.

"I believe that, unfortunately, people are losing hope, and, as such, radicalization is growing," he said.

But he added that 99 percent of Israeli Arabs are not involved in terror.

"The Arab citizens of Israel were proved to be loyal to the state and they are law obedient, even though, sometimes, even the law is discriminatory," he said.

Two Israeli Arabs were arrested earlier this month and charged with membership in al-Qaida. And there have also been six nationalistically motivated attacks this year carried out by Arab residents of Jerusalem, a development that has caused concern on the part of Israeli Jews.

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