JERUSALEM — The Jerusalem Magistrates Court this week extended detention orders for three men, including two settlers and a soldier, suspected of involvement in a Jewish terrorist network that authorities believe carried out a series of attacks against Arab targets in recent years.
At least seven Palestinians have been killed and 19 wounded in attacks carried out over the past two years in the West Bank. Police believe two separate terror cells were involved in the attacks, which involve mainly roadside shootings. Nine settlers have been arrested in the case, which has evolved rapidly in the past six weeks.
In addition to the settlers, three soldiers were arrested recently on suspicion of aiding the plotters.
The three men whose detentions were extended this week include Sela Tor, 22, of Kiryat Arba, the only suspect so far charged with murder, as well as Hagai Avicker, an active-duty soldier charged with weapons violations and conspiracy to commit a crime. The third suspect, Shahar Dvir-Zeliger, 27, a resident of the settlement outpost of Adei-Ad, is said to have given information to interrogators that forms the basis for charges against the others.
Efforts by police and Shin Bet security services to solve the shootings were blocked by their inability to obtain leads until April 2002, when two settlers were apprehended in East Jerusalem while attempting to park an explosives-laden trailer outside an Arab girls’ school.
The interrogation of the two suspects and a third man detained days later is believed to have led to the arrests in July 2003 of Yitzhak Pass, 27, of Hebron and his brother-in-law Matityahu Shvu, 25, of Havat Ma’on, on charges related to weapons possession.
Pass, whose 10-month-old daughter, Shalhevet, was killed by a Palestinian sniper in March 2001, is believed by police to have been en route to a revenge bombing at the time of his arrest. He and Shvu were indicted August 8 on charges of illegal possession of explosives.
Their arrests, meanwhile, have led to a wave of other arrests, now totaling 12. Little is known about the details of the charges against the suspects, due to a gag order imposed on the investigations by the Jerusalem Magistrates Court.
In 1984, 28 Israelis were sentenced to varying prison terms for their involvement in what came to be known as the Jewish Underground. The group carried out a series of attacks, including the assassinations of three Palestinian mayors and a shooting at the Islamic University in Hebron in which three Palestinian students were killed. The group also reportedly planned to blow up the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third-holiest site in Islam.
Investigators note that while the 1984 plotters included some leading figures in the settler movement who were widely known in Israel’s Orthodox community, the new underground consists mainly of bohemian youth raised in the settlements who have little connection to mainstream Israeli life.