Israeli agents seize lynching suspects

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The Independent Online

Israeli secret service men have arrested eight Palestinians accused of lynching two Israeli soldiers, an incident that brought Israel to the brink of war with the Palestinians.

Israeli secret service men have arrested eight Palestinians accused of lynching two Israeli soldiers, an incident that brought Israel to the brink of war with the Palestinians.

One of those seized is a man in his twenties who was said to have appeared at an upstairs window and waved his blood-covered hands at the frenzied mob below to indicate the killings were done.

Israeli sources said several of those involved were seized in a joint operation by an undercover army unit and the Shin Bet internal security service. The butchery last Thursday was among the bloodiest episodes in three weeks of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Israeli helicopter gunships attacked Yasser Arafat's Gaza residence in revenge.

Israeli sources said the reserve soldiers had taken a wrong turning into the West Bank town of Ramallah. They were arrested by Palestinian police. The television footage of a mob of Palestinians swarming into the police station and beating and stabbing the two soldiers prompted President Bill Clinton to call the Sharm el-Sheikh summit in an attempt to reach a ceasefire.

The eight suspects being interrogated last night inside Israel are believed to be among a dozen whose pictures were published in Israeli newspapers. They were taken from Italian television footage of scenes inside and outside the Palestinian police station.

Gabriella Simoni, whose crew filmed the lynching, said: "Never have I see a mob so angry. Thousands of hate-ridden Palestinians swarmed on the police station." The television footage, screened in full in Italy but edited elsewhere, showed dozens of people through the window of the police station. The camera caught them beating to death Yosef Avrahami, 38, and Vadim Novesche, 35.

When one body was thrown head-first from the windowthe mob jumped on it, mutilating it with stones, clubs and knives. They tied the body to the back of a car and towed it in triumph around a city square, then set fire to the corpse.

The second soldier was left inside, his skull shattered by a bullet at close range. When the bodies were eventually handed to the Israeli army they were identifiable only from dental records. The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, vowed to hunt the killers and "close the account".

Israel's security agencies have a long tradition of methodically hunting down those considered responsible for terror attacks against Israeli citizens. After the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972, Mossad agents took years to hunt and kill Palestinian leaders it held responsible.

Yesterday a Palestinian militia leader, Hussein Sheik, said that if Israeli special forces had entered Palestiniancontrolled territory to seize the suspects it would be likely to provoke an outburst of fury among Palestinians. "This gives Palestinians a free hand," he told Israel's Channel One. "Now you give us the right to go after those who killed Mohammed al-Dura" [the 12-year-old boy shot by Israelis in the Gaza Strip as his father desperately tried to shield him].

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