TEL AVIV (Apr. 30)
Defense Minister Moshe Arens said today that he was unhappy with the practice of blowing up the houses that were the homes of or gave shelter to terrorists captured or killed in the course of committing security offenses. He acknowledged, however, that it had a “deterrent value.” The practice dates from the early years of the State.
Arens, addressing a meeting of the Foreign Press Association here, would not reply when asked if the security services or the army will destroy the homes of Jews found guilty of terrorism. The question obviously was prompted by the round-up of suspects in the attempted mass sabotage of Arab buses last Friday who are believed to be members of a Jewish terrorist group.
Most of the suspects are reportedly residents of the West Bank and Golan Heights. Arens admitted there was a “legal anomoly” inasmuch as Jews in the territories are tried under Israeli law while West Bank Arabs are tried under military regulations.
EXISTENCE OF JEWISH UNDERGROUND
Arens also admitted that there appeared to be “a group of Jews working underground, or in a clandestine manner. You can therefore say there is a Jewish underground. But if by underground you mean a large-scale operation with chapters all over the country and a chain of command, then I do not think there is such an organization,” the Defense Minister said.
He observed that the arrests of Jews in connection with the attempted bus sabotage demonstrated that the security agencies have adapted themselves to changing circumstances. They were established on the assumption that subversion and terrorist activities would originate in the Arab sector. But the recent arrests showed they now pay equal attention to Jews, Arens said.
WON’T DISCUSS SPECIAL PANEL
He declined to discuss the special investigation he ordered last week into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of four terrorists who hijacked a Tel Aviv-to-Ashkelon bus on April 12 and were killed when Israeli troops stormed the vehicle early the next morning to free its passengers. Media reports implied that at least one of the terrorists was captured unharmed and was later murdered.
Arens would say only that the commission of inquiry headed by Maj. Gen. (res.) Meir Zorea, was instructed to begin its investigation without delay and report back to him “speedily.”
Arens refused to comment on reports that Israel was selling locally manufactured arms or Soviet-made weapons captured in Lebanon to other countries. Israel has officially denied that it was supplying arms to the Contras in their attempts to unseat the Sandinista government of Nicaragua or to the government of El Salvador, both supported by the United States.