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Israel to probe settler threats

Aftermath of desecration of Hebron graves
Muslim graves on the outskirts of Hebron were attacked by settlers

The Israeli attorney general has called for an investigation into murderous incitement by settlers against Israeli soldiers, according to Israeli media.

"We hope... they will all be killed... because this is what they deserve," an unnamed settler told Army Radio.

The comments came amid rioting in which Muslim graves were desecrated after the army removed an illegal outpost near Hebron in the West Bank on Saturday.

Outgoing PM Ehud Olmert said those behind the comments "belonged in jail".

Outposts are informal settlements in the occupied West Bank which are illegal under Israeli law (whereas most settlements are authorised by Israel but viewed as illegal under international law).

Reports of violence - against both Palestinians and Israeli security forces - by the right-wing activist groups often involved in establishing the outposts have increased in recent months, particularly during the Palestinian olive harvest.

'Verbal violence'

Israeli authorities said several settlers were arrested during Saturday night's violence in Hebron, during which Israeli media reported some 80 Palestinian cars were vandalised.

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"We hope they will be defeated by their enemies, that they will all be [kidnapped like Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit, that they will all be killed and all slaughtered because this is what they deserve," the unnamed settler said on Israel Radio.

On Sunday, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: "Whoever speaks out against Israeli Defence Forces soldiers belongs in jail and in judicial proceedings. We will show no tolerance towards such expressions and actions. We are sick of this verbal violence which either leads to, or affects, other violence."

In a letter to a left-wing MP which was quoted in Israeli newspapers, a senior aide to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said the settlers had "crossed a red line".

The statements "were exceptional in their gravity, and therefore we decided to deviate from our usual policy and order police to open a criminal investigation against those who made them," the letter said.

The Yesha Council, which represents some 450,000 settlers who live in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, condemned what it described as "extremely grave slander" by "hooligans", but also protested against the removal of the outpost.

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