Jewish settlers rage at Rabin

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE ANGER of Jewish settlers burst out in Jerusalem last night when a volatile mob trapped the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, inside the city's King David Hotel, chanting 'Rabin out' and jostling police and soldiers.

The protest, the most direct challenge yet from the radical right to Mr Rabin's authority, appeared to take Israeli security forces by surprise. Settlers from the occupied territories, many armed with rifles and Uzi machine-guns, shouting alongside women and children, were able to surge forward to the hotel walls before police and soldiers took control. Mr Rabin was eventually whisked away as army jeeps and barricades closed off roads.

The protest followed the killing by Palestinian gunmen yesterday of an Israeli soldier in the Palestinian town of Hebron, on the Israeli-occupied West Bank - also a base for some of the country's most hardline settlers. The settlers were further angered yesterday by news that five Israeli soldiers were killed in southern Lebanon by a bomb detonated by guerrillas. It was the worst attack in nearly two years in Israel's self- declared security zone.

Within hours of the Hebron killing - the fourth soldier to die in the occupied territories this month - nearly 700 settlers had converged on Jerusalem, marching on the King David Hotel where Mr Rabin was dining with the Portuguese Prime Minsiter, Anibal Cavaco Silva.

Jerusalem's police commander, Major-General Chaim Albaldec, said afterwards that the protest had been successfully defused. 'We were expecting perhaps 15 or 20 - we got 600. We have never seen such a sudden protest as this. If we bring more police we fear they will get more violent. From now on, each time there is a death we may have the same reaction.'

Palestinian-Israeli clashes have been on the rise in recent weeks. Yesterday Israeli soliders shot and wounded five Palestinians at the main checkpoint in Gaza. There are signs that Palestinian disillusion with the peace process is growing and Jewish settlers have begun accusing Mr Rabin of allowing his concern with the peace process to override their security.