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Rabin Calls for Death Penalty Against Jericho Bus Firebombers

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin will ask the death penalty for the firebombers of a bus outside Jericho Sunday evening in which an Israeli woman and her three small children died.

Rabin said Monday he would instruct the army’s legal department to investigate the possibility.

Capital punishment is permissable under Israeli law, although it has been applied only in the case of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, who was hanged in 1961.

Rabin, along with most of his predecessors, has been reluctant to execute terrorists for capital offenses, partly for fear of retaliation against captured Israeli prisoners of war.

But there is growing public sentiment in favor of the death penalty for heinous crimes in which the victims are women and children.

Some observers say Rabin is supporting it now to prevent an erosion of Labor Party votes in the Knesset elections Tuesday.

The tragedy, on the eve of the balloting, is believed to have so infuriated the public that many “undecideds” will cast their votes for the hard-line Likud or parties even further to the right.

Justice Minister Avraham Sharir of Likud’s Liberal Party wing also said he would urge the Cabinet at its next meeting to authorize implementation of the death penalty.

Likud circles were silent Monday on the possible impact of the bus tragedy on the elections. Laborites and their allies were deeply apprehensive.

Amnon Rubinstein, leader of the Center-Shinui Party, said the bus bombing was “the best gift that the extreme right could receive on election day.”

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