Attack on Ex-member of Knesset Touches off New Settler Unrest

Jewish settlers have launched a second series of violent demonstrations in as many weeks to protest the latest attack by Arab terrorists bent on destroying the Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.

The demonstrations occured Sunday after terrorists attacked the car of Rabbi Chaim Druckman near the West Bank town of Hebron.

Druckman is a founding member of the Gush Emunim settlers movement and a former Knesset member from the National Religious Party.

Ephraim Ayubi, 30, the settlement leader’s driver, was killed in the attack. Druckman suffered bullet wounds in the arm and shoulder.

The Damascus-based Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group opposed to the peace process, claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack.

Israeli security officials said Druckman may well have been targeted for assassination.

It was the latest in a series of recent attacks by radical groups seeking to derail Israel’s autonomy accord with the Palestine Liberation Organization, and it provoked a violent reaction among settlers.

Last week, Israeli settlers embarked on a series of violent demonstrations after an Israeli settler from Beit El, Chaim Mizrachi, was kidnapped and murdered by gunmen from the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement.

The violent demonstrations, directed at Palestinian homes and property, were held as a protest against an Israeli government that the settlers believed has turned a blind eye to their security needs.

In the latest demonstrations, dozens of Israeli settlers came to the scene of the shooting, while hundreds of others reportedly charged the outdoor Arab market in Hebron, where they overturned food stalls, smashed windows and blocked roads.

A WARNING FROM SETTLERS

A demonstration was also held in downtown Jerusalem on Sunday night. Settlers and yeshiva students battled with mounted police and border police during the demonstrations here.

The demonstration followed the funeral of Ayubi, which was attended by several thousand mourners, among them rabbis and political leaders from several parties.

In the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, leaders of the Judea and Samaria Regional Council resolved to block all the main arteries in the territories Monday morning.

Settlers held a stormy meeting with Maj.Gen. Nehemia Tamaria, commander of the Israeli army’s central region. They warned him “not to be surprised” if some settler, unable to control his grief and anger, were to enter an Arab village and kill dozens of inhabitants.

Tamaria, in a brief television interview, declared that the army would deal with any group seeking “to take the law into its own hands.”

The latest settlers’ protests followed incidents of violence in Hebron that began last Friday night, when Jews were stoned while walking to payers at the Machpelah Cave, where the patriarch Abraham is believed to be buried.

Jewish groups reacted by smashing windows of Arab cars and homes and beating Arab passersby. Settlers also threw stones at Arab cars on the road between Hebron and Kiryat Arba.

Druckman was attacked some six miles south of Hebron on the way from his home near Kiryat Gat to a yeshiva in Kiryat Arba.

Gunmen reportedly sprayed the car with bullets from a Kalachnikov rifle and fled in their car, which had Israeli license plates.

The attack prompted calls on the government from right-wing parties to stop negotiating with the PLO. Leaders of the opposition Tsomet and Moledet parties said the PLO could not continue to be excused for the repeated attacks.

They were joined by the mainstream opposition Likud party, which called on the government to guarantee the safety of Jews living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

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