Page last updated at 23:37 GMT, Sunday, 1 November 2009

Israeli settler held over attacks

Yaakov Teitel (file)
Yaakov Teitel's lawyer said his client was "mentally disturbed"

Israeli police have arrested a Jewish settler who they say has confessed to a string of high-profile hate attacks.

These allegedly include the killing of two Palestinians 12 years ago, and the bombing last year of the home of the Israeli academic, Zeev Sternhell.

Yaakov Teitel, a 37-year-old American immigrant who lives in the West Bank, was detained last month after handing out leaflets condemning homosexuals.

Police said they believed Mr Teitel had acted alone during the hate campaign.

"He is like a serial killer. This guy was a Jewish terrorist who targeted different types of people," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld added.

"He was deeply involved in terrorism in all different levels."

Mr Teitel's lawyer, Adi Keidar, told Israel Army Radio that his client was "mentally disturbed" and believed he was an "emissary of the Lord" who was instructed to carry out the attacks by God.

Booby-trapped gift

At a news conference on Sunday, officials said Mr Teitel had been arrested earlier this month in the Har Nof area of Jerusalem following a lengthy investigation by the police and the Shin Bet internal security service.

We are horrified by the fact that there are elements of Israeli society, Jews who feel justified in taking the lives of other Jews because of their beliefs
Leah Ortiz

He had been giving out leaflets in the ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood praising an attack on a gay youth club in Tel Aviv in August that killed two people. A large weapons cache was later found at his home in the West Bank settlement outpost Shvut Rachel, where he lives with his wife and four children.

During questioning, Mr Teitel confessed to several crimes, saying he had emigrated to Israel to carry out attacks against Palestinians as revenge for suicide bombings which killed Israeli citizens, the added.

The crimes are said to include the murders of a Palestinian shepherd near Mount Hebron in 1997 and an Palestinian taxi driver in East Jerusalem two months later, and the stabbing of an Arab.

More recently, he was allegedly responsible for a pipe bomb attack which wounded Mr Sternhell, a well-known critic of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and opponent of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Zeev Sternhell
Zeev Sternhell suffered minor shrapnel wounds in one leg in the attack

After the September 2008 attack, posters were found offering a 1m shekel ($294,000) reward to anyone who killed a member of the Peace Now Movement, which opposes Jewish settlement activity.

Mr Teitel is also said to have confessed to sending a booby-trapped gift basket in March that year to a family of Messianic Jews, who believe in Jesus as a saviour. The blast seriously wounded the family's 15-year-old son.

Video footage released on Sunday purportedly shows him leaving the bomb outside the Americans' home in the settlement of Ariel.

He was also suspected to attempting to bomb Israeli police stations and patrols because they provided security for gay pride parades, but not for the attack on the gay youth club, police said.

Responding to the arrest, Mr Sternhell said: "I hope the system deals with this terrorist as it deals with all other terrorists, Jewish and Arab alike."

Leah Ortiz, one of the Messianic Jews whose home was bombed last year, said she was "horrified by the fact that there are elements of Israeli society, Jews who feel justified in taking the lives of other Jews because of their beliefs".

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