Israel fears Islamic threat after two are murdered

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The Independent Online
TWO Israelis murdered in Israel, apparently at the hands of extremist Palestinian Islamists: the incidents are regular occurrences in the daily diary of violence which accompanies the search for Middle East peace despite the agreement reached between the PLO and Israel on Wednesday.

The attacks yesterday and Thursday were not against Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip but inside the 1949 armistice lines of Israel itself. Israeli officials have stated that the motive for the separate attacks was to sabotage the peace process. However, it is not clear yet how co- ordinated such attacks are.

The two victims were Naftali Sahar, 75, whose body was found in his orange grove near Kibbutz Na'an near Rehovot, apparently killed by an Arab worker, and Ilan Sudri, 23, a taxi-driver whose body was found in a garbage dump near Sderot in the Negev. Sudri had last been heard of at 9.30pm on Wednesday. On Thursday morning, a French news agency received from the Islamic Jihad organisation a photocopy of Sudri's ID card, his gun licence and a police ID card. He was a former border policeman.

Islamic Jihad is the most militant of the Palestinian Islamist groups. Its leader, Fathi Shkaki, is a doctor based in Damascus, who advocates revolutionary Islam. The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, is an offshoot of the Muslim Brothers; while largely promoting ad-dawa, Islamic self-improvement, it has its own military wing, the Ezzideen al- Qassem brigades, which have carried out some of the bloodier attacks on Israeli targets.

An upsurge of attacks by militant extremists can be expected for a number of reasons. Yesterday marked the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting; many Islamic Jihad and Hamas activists have returned from their exile in southern Lebanon; and frustration is growing at the lack of progress towards implementing Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area.

Army commanders have noted an increased sophistication in the use of explosives and car bombs.