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Police Arrest 27 Israeli Arabs on Suspicion of Firebombings

The arrests of 27 young Israeli Arabs suspected of stone-throwing, firebomb attacks and other security-related offenses in Israel was announced by the police at a news conference in Nazareth on Thursday.

The police said the suspects, ranging in age from teen-aged minors to youths in their early 20, allegedly belonged to three separate gangs, all inspired by the Palestine Liberation Organization’s fighting arm, Al Fatah, but otherwise not related.

The Arab youths were active in Galilee and in the so-called “triangle” made up of Israeli-Arab villages close to the Green Line, Israel’s pre-1967 border.

Dani Tabib, the regional police commander, said the gangs were local and unconnected with enemy groups abroad. He said they have been active for about two years, which coincides with the duraation of the intifada.

Two of the gangs in the Nazareth area had 10 members each. The third and largest was the Jatt Popular Front, based in the village of Jatt between Tel Aviv and Haifa.

That group had 17 members, who the police believe were responsible for 30 incidents including arson, throwing firebombs or stones at buses, raising the PLO flag and painting anti-Israel slogans on walls.

Police said the Jatt gang was formed about two-and-a-half years ago, after the assassination of PLO chief Yasir Arafat’s deputy, Abu Jihad, at his home in Tunis, allegedly by an Israeli hit squad. Its leader was Tewfiq Mahbel Aattad, 28, an X-ray technician.

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