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Sunday, 12 May, 2002, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Israelis probed for 'targeting Arabs'
West Bank Jewish settlement of Beitar Illit
The question of Jewish settlements is an emotive one
Israeli security officers are questioning four Jewish settlers suspected of plotting a bomb attack on an Arab girls' school in East Jerusalem.

The alleged attack was foiled two weeks ago but details are only emerging now because of initial reporting restrictions imposed by an Israeli court.


It's not a question of an isolated individual but of a true organisation

Gideon Ezar, deputy security chief
On Saturday, police said they believed in the existence of a network of Jewish extremists plotting attacks against Palestinians.

The main body representing Jewish settlers - the Yesha Council - has issued a statement condemning the alleged bomb attack.

The men were detained on 29 April after police discovered a powerful bomb in the courtyard of the school, according to Israeli newspaper reports.

It was set to go off at 0735 local time (0435 GMT) - the time that the 1,500 students at the school line up for morning assembly.

Series of attacks

The device was discovered and defused after two of the men were stopped during a routine identity check near the school.

Two others were later arrested for allegedly helping to prepare the bomb.

Jewish settlers
More than 200,000 settlers live in the West Bank and Gaza
The four men are residents of the Beit Eyin and Maon Farm settlements in the West Bank, near Hebron.

Police now say they are investigating whether the four men are linked to a series of terror attacks against Arab targets carried out over the past two years.

"It's not a question of an isolated individual but of a true organisation, so the investigation is directed towards other suspects," Deputy Interior Security Minister Gideon Ezar told public radio.

Previous attacks

The last attack against Arabs was on 2 April when a Palestinian was shot dead and another wounded in an attack police attributed to Jewish extremists.

And six weeks ago, police discovered a bomb at a boys' school in East Jerusalem. It exploded after the boys had been evacuated.

An unknown organisation called the Revenge for the Children said it was behind that attack.

The Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem says that since the beginning of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000, 12 Palestinians have been killed and dozens injured in attacks by Israeli extremists.

There have also been a number of fatal attacks by Palestinian militants against settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

See also:

27 Apr 02 | Middle East
Four Israelis killed in West Bank raid
20 Jul 01 | Middle East
Killing hints at extremist revival
27 Apr 02 | Middle East
Children bear scars of Mid-East conflict
22 Mar 01 | Middle East
Israel 'tolerates settler violence'
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