JERUSALEM (AP) – Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Saturday he would consider holding Jewish extremists bent on derailing Israel’s upcoming Gaza Strip withdrawal without charge or trial, after a Jewish army deserter opposed to the pullout shot four Israeli Arabs to death.

Israel has frequently employed the procedure, known as administrative detention, against Palestinians, but rarely uses it against Jews.

Mofaz acknowledged in an interview with Channel 2 TV that an intelligence desk set up to deal with the withdrawal “didn’t operate well” in the case of Thursday’s attack, when the soldier opened fire on a bus in a northern Arab town.

“We will also consider something that I oppose but the Shin Bet (security service) recommends: We will consider administrative detentions … of all those the Shin Bet recommends,” he said.

He would not estimate how many people might be detained under such circumstances, but said the detentions would be “pinpointed.”

Soldiers went to the extremist West Bank settlement of Tapuah, where 19-year-old Eden Natan-Zada fled after he deserted, but did not find him there, Mofaz said.

“That doesn’t mean that everything was done,” he said. “When you have a deserter missing for 45 days, gun in hand, in the Tapuah area, and parents who cautioned (the military) about him, that should have set off alarm bells.”

The boy’s father told The Associated Press he had asked the army to find his son. He said he was concerned his son’s weapons would fall into the hands of fanatics in Tapuah.

Israeli Arab leaders meeting in Nazareth criticized the government for failing to intercept Natan-Zada before he attacked. The soldier, who was wearing the skullcap, beard and sidelocks of an ultra-Orthodox Jew, opened fire on the driver then killed three other passengers before he was subdued and beaten to death by an angry crowd.

“This man’s name was known to the Shin Bet, and the army didn’t let police know he had deserted. … He had a uniform and a gun, and was wandering free,” said Mohammed Barakeh, a lawmaker.

“Just as they go after act against Palestinian ‘ticking bombs,’ so should they act against Jewish ‘ticking bombs,”‘ the Haaretz newspaper cited Ibrahim Sarsur, a leader of Israel’s Islamic Movement, as saying.

The two were among hundreds of Arab leaders who met to discuss how their angry community should respond to the slayings. They agreed to hold a mass protest, but did not set a date.

Although the mood among Israeli Arabs is grim, they “don’t want to respond in an incendiary way,” Barakeh said.

Sarsur called on the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has threatened retaliation for the attack, to “mind its own business and let the (Israeli) Arab public handle the matter,” Haaretz reported.

Although meeting participants advocated nonviolence, the potential for friction was inherent in the Islamic Movement’s call for a mass turnout at a Jerusalem shrine that is a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Barakeh said the Islamic Movement issued a statement urging Israeli Muslims to turn out in force at the Temple Mount, or Haram as-Sharif, compound on Aug. 14, a Jewish holy day when many observant Jews are expected to visit the site to pray for the cancellation of the withdrawal.

AP-ES-08-06-05 1854EDT


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