Israelis uncover 'terrorist group' formed by West Bank settlers

ISRAELI security services have made a series of arrests recently in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. They claim to have uncovered a new 'Jewish underground'.

The Jewish underground that emerged in Hebron in the early 1980s plotted to blow up the Dome of the Rock, the Muslim shrine in Jerusalem. This time, according to Israeli press reports, the suspects had intended to carry out a 'massacre' in an Arab village, and to blow up Orient House, the Palestinian headquarters in Arab East Jerusalem.

Israeli officials would not confirm the precise nature of the plot. But the seriousness of the allegations were highlighted on Monday, when the Supreme Court refused the suspects the right to see their lawyers, due to the 'threat to the security of the state'.

The intelligence services, heavily slated in the wake of the Hebron massacre for failing to monitor the likes of Baruch Goldstein - the doctor who slaughtered 29 Muslims in their Hebron mosque in February - have been keen to highlight the success of their recent Hebron operation. They have been leaking details even before the suspects have been formally charged.

The settlers were detained just two streets away from Orient House, carrying automatic weapons and grenades, according to newspaper reports. 'The Shin Bet (Israel's internal security service) uncovered an entire group of people who were going to carry out attacks which would have cost lives and could have hurt the fragile relationship between us and the Arabs,' said Ori Orr, chairman of the Israeli Foreign Affairs and Security Committee.

The arrests appear to confirm evidence that Goldstein was not a lone crazed maniac, but the product of violent fanaticism that has taken root in extremist Jewish settlements - particularly those in Hebron, where 7,000 Jews live in fortified enclaves inside this staunchly Muslim town of 100,000 Arabs.

In the wake of the massacre, the most rascist settler groups, Kach and Kahan Hai, were outlawed. The group just arrested, however, does not fit the traditional profile of extremist settlers. Most members were young and not well-known as activists. This suggests a new breed of lower-profile militant may be forming among young settlers.

The profile of those arrested also shows that the ties between elements in the Israeli army and extremist settlers are as strong as ever. Two of the men detained, Kobi Pinto and Oren Edri, are young army officers who lived in Kiryat Arba. Mr Pinto is in the elite Golani brigade.

All settlers have the right to carry arms. Kiryat Arba resembles a militia training camp, and most of its male settlers serve in the Israeli army reserves, often patrolling their own Arab neighbours. Goldstein was the Israeli army doctor in Hebron.

As emerged at the time of the massacre, the recruitment of militant settlers into the Israeli army also opens up the possibility of illegal weapons reaching extremist Jewish factions. At a court hearing yesterday, Mr Edri was accused of stealing arms and training civilians in military action.

The paranoia evident in Kiryat Arba has been building up ever since the Hebron massacre, when it appeared likely that some Hebron settlers would be removed. At the same time, the prospect of spreading Palestinian autonomy, which envisages the Israeli army redeploying out of Arab population centres like Hebron, and the arrival of Palestinian police, has raised questions about the future of Kiryat Arba.

Ehud Barak, the Israeli Chief of Staff, said recently there was no intention to redeploy the army from Hebron. All the evidence suggests the presence of settlers here has been reinforced, with more army protection and more barricades. New building is underway in Kiryat Arba, and settlers say their numbers are rising. However, the settlers have no confidence in their own state to protect them. They say the recent arrests are a plot by the Rabin government to destabilise the settlers, and they refuse to believe any of the charges against the detainees, complaining instead of human rights violations and Israeli police harrassment.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
Sport
Danny Cipriani of England breaks clear to score his second try
rugby
Life and Style
New research says leaving your desk can help you to avoid serious illness
health
Arts and Entertainment
tvSPOILER ALERT: Like a mash-up of 28 Days Later, Braveheart, The Killing and Lord of the Rings, this GoT episode was a belter
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral