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The BBC's Paul Adams
"The left is resigned to defeat"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 15:39 GMT
Sharon's website hacked
The right-wing Likud leader
Ariel Sharon is a hate figure for many Palestinians
Computer hackers have removed the website of the right-wing Likud leader Ariel Sharon, according to Israel radio.

Mr Sharon's website was replaced with a new site bearing slogans critical of Mr Sharon and praising the Palestinians.

The Sharon site
Mr Sharon's website was replaced on Tuesday
The Sharon site featured a service for voters - a database that allowed them to find their voting stations by entering their names and identity card numbers.

According to Israel radio, the Hezbollah group in southern Lebanon is suspected of being behind the hacking of the website, as Sharon's site was replaced with a "well-constructed site" directing readers to Hezbollah "polling stations".

The site included pictures and slogans praising Hezbollah, the Lebanese Islamist guerrillas who have become heroes to some Palestinians.

The Sharon site was unavailable on the internet until Wednesday morning.

Commanding lead

In the run-up to polling day on 6 February, current Prime Minister Ehud Barak is trailing badly in opinion polls which give 72-year old Mr Sharon a commanding lead.

Mr Sharon has made it clear that the Palestinians can forget about any concessions made by Mr Barak.

Ehud Barak
Mr Barak is trailing badly in opinion polls
For Arabs, the right-wing Likud leader is their ultimate nightmare. "He represents the worst in Israel," said the Palestinian minister Nabil Shaath recently.

Mr Sharon is associated with the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Beirut 18 years ago.

More recently, he is the person most Arabs blame for triggering the recent wave of Arab-Israeli bloodshed.

On 28 September last year, he chose to visit the Haram al-Sharif, a holy sanctuary in East Jerusalem that is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

His supporters said he was just exercising his rights as an Israeli. But to the Arabs, it was a deliberate provocation.

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