TEL AVIV (Mar. 22)
Three Jewish youths and four Arabs have been arrested in connection with the pre-dawn fire that swept the Park Hotel in Netanya Saturday, killing five persons and injuring 40, 13 of whom were still hospitalized today. The arrests indicate that the police are pursuing two lines of investigation–one that the blaze was an act of sabotage committed by terrorists and the other that it was arson connected with the protection-extortion racket.
The four Arab suspects were all employes of the hotel. Three are from Nablus on the West Bank and one is an Israeli Arab. A Palestinian terrorist organization has claimed credit for the fire that caused an estimated IL 7 million damage to the recently built eight-story luxury hotel.
The arson angle was raised because of recent threats made to the manager of the hotel’s night club where the blaze originated and to the owner of the hotel by Israeli underworld elements. Extortionists reportedly demanded payment of IL 15,000 per month for “protection.” There was no indication today whether the three Israeli youths, all residents of Netanya, had underworld connections. Nor was it clear whether they were the same youngsters who threatened, the night before the fire, to burn down the place because they were refused admission to the club.