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Last Updated: Monday, 11 September 2006, 19:02 GMT 20:02 UK
Settler guilty of W Bank murders
Asher Weisgan
Asher Weisgan was disarmed after killing four settlement employees
An Israeli court has convicted a Jewish settler for the murder of four Palestinians in the West Bank as Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Asher Weisgan shot dead four employees at the Shilo settlement - two of them as he was driving them home after work.

Prosecutors said he had hoped to stop the Gaza pullout by diverting resources to the West Bank to quell unrest.

Weisgan snatched the murder weapon from a settlement security guard. Sentencing will take place shortly, officials say.

Convictions for crimes by settlers in the West Bank are rare, according to a report by a human rights group published on the day of the conviction.

Extremist anger

After his arrest, Weisgan said he had no regrets about shooting the Palestinians, two of whom he had got to know well over a number of years.

Internal voices called on the accused... to carry out an act of self-sacrifice in order to prevent the disaster
Defence lawyer Asher Ohayon

He also expressed the hope that someone would kill then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the architect of the withdrawal plan.

Defence lawyer Asher Ohayon told the court "internal voices called on the accused once and again to not only think about himself and his family, but about the entire nation, and carry out an act of self-sacrifice in order to prevent the disaster".

Mr Sharon withstood a wave of protests from the settler movement over his plan to withdraw settlers and the troops who protected them from the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip.

Two weeks before the killing, a Jewish extremist had shot dead four Israeli Arabs on a bus in Shfaram, before he was lynched by angry crowd.

Settler violence

An Israeli group said in a report released on Monday that up to 90% of complaints by Palestinians of violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers ended in failure.

The group, Yesh Din, has compiled a survey based on a sample of 92 police files from 2005 and part of 2006.

It indicates that only 10% of Palestinian cases against settlers led to indictments.

"The most worrying conclusion arising from the report is that there is practically no law enforcement mechanism in place to protect Palestinians from settler violence," said Yesh Din research director Lior Yavne.

In response, the Israeli police said that out of 299 such complaints made between January and November last year, charges were filed in 15% of cases.

A police statement said a number of the complaints were still being investigated and could yet result in charges.

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