Israeli police say they’ve questioned several Jewish extremists who talked of firing a missile at a key Islamic holy site in Jerusalem. At the same time, hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested for blocking roads throughout Israel to protest the government’s plan to pull out of Gaza.
Jerusalem, 17 May 2005 – Israeli police say a handful of Jewish extremists has been arrested over the past month on suspicion of plotting attacks against the Dome of Rock, one of Islam’s holiest sites.
Police say several of those in custody admitted discussing trying to buy an anti-tank missile to fire at the mosque complex. The men said they planned to fire the missile, throw hand grenades at approaching Israeli security forces and then commit suicide.
The plot was apparently abandoned because of lack of money and know-how.
Police say they lack sufficient evidence to keep holding the men and have released them with some restrictions, but without charge.
Israeli security forces have repeatedly warned of attempts by Jewish extremists to attack the Haram al-Sharif, which is home to Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque. Such an attack would likely spark violence not just in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza but throughout the entire Middle East.
News of the plot was only revealed late Monday and comes amid growing tension over the government’s plan to dismantle Jewish settlements in Gaza and small portions of the West Bank beginning in August.
Hundreds of opponents of the plan set up roadblocks and staged sit-ins throughout Israel Monday evening, tying up traffic for hours.
About 150 demonstrators showed up in Gilo, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem built on Palestinian land annexed by Israel. Jaqueline Esther Levensen was among the protesters.
« We’re talking about uprooting Jews and losing their homes, » said Jaqueline Esther Levensen, who was among the protesters.
« It’s really important for the youth to understand that we’re losing the country and we have to defend [it] and be on our guard – [do] everything possible to prevent this uprooting. »
Some 300 demonstrators, most of them young people, were detained, but protest organizers warn this is only the beginning.
Writing in the Israeli daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, Yair Lapid criticized Monday’s demonstrations as a « festival of self adoration, » by the settler youth. But, he wrote there was a valuable lesson for Israelis stuck for hours in traffic because of the protests. He says the public now knows what it’s like to live with road blocks. « For a single moment, » he writes, « we too were Palestinians » – referring to the Israeli military sieges and road blocks most Palestinians have lived under for much of the past four years.
© 2005 Voice of America