Urging a Calm Response to Tragedy, Shamir Rejects Using Death Penalty

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir is trying to exert a calming influence in the aftermath of the savage murder last Friday of three Israeli factory workers in Jaffa, apparently by Islamic fundamentalists from the Gaza Strip.

Responding to clamor for the death penalty from broad segments of the public and within his right-wing coalition Cabinet, Shamir has indicated he is inclined not to introduce capital punishment.

The prime minister told reporters here Monday that he had no moral qualms but simply is not convinced it would be an effective deterrent.

The murders were especially brutal. The victims were stabbed repeatedly with fish knives and mutilated.

Shamir denied, however, that the Israeli public was shaken by insecurity as a result of the recent wave of stabbing attacks on Jews by Arabs acting singly or in pairs.

Briefing the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee earlier Monday, Shamir responded to critics on both left and right.

He said the average Israeli citizen is “not simple” and understands that the fight against terrorism is part of the Jewish state’s ongoing battle for survival, the end of which is not in sight.

The citizens know the army and other security services are doing their best to protect them, he said.

His tilt toward restraint in Israel’s response to events was reflected in Sunday’s Cabinet communique, which counseled “composure and the strengthening of the people’s spirits” as the “first and foremost requirement” in the battle against terrorism.

Meanwhile, four Palestinians ordered deported over the weekend have appealed the decision to a special Israel Defense Force panel and have final recourse to the High Court of Justice.

The military appeals panel, meeting in the Gaza jail, was to hear their brief Monday but postponed the hearing until Tuesday, at the request of defense counselors.

The attorneys for the four asked for more time to study the basis of the charges against their clients.

The four are members of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement based in the Gaza Strip, which claimed credit for the Jaffa murders.

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