Three leaders of the anti-Palestinian Jewish Underground movement were paroled Wednesday after serving less than seven years of their life sentences for terrorist attacks.
The three--Menachem Livni, Shaul Nir and Uzi Sharbav--were the last of 27 members of the so-called Jewish Underground to be freed from prison. The group carried out car bombings and other attacks in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in the early 1980s that killed three Palestinian students and maimed two West Bank Arab mayors.
Livni, often described as the leader of the group, was convicted in 1985 of masterminding the car bombings that maimed Nablus Mayor Bassam Shaka and Ramallah Mayor Karim Halaf. Nir and Sharbav were convicted the same year of a grenade and gun attack on the Islamic College in the West Bank city of Hebron in which three Arab students were killed and 30 wounded. They were arrested in early 1984.
Their life sentences were reduced in stages by Israeli President Chaim Herzog to 10 years. Two weeks ago, a parole committee further reduced the sentences, making the three eligible for parole on Wednesday.
Hard-line supporters of the Jewish Underground, who favor harsh measures against the Palestinian uprising, applauded the releases, and some demonstrated outside the prison as the men met their families and returned to a Jewish settlement near Hebron.
But Israeli liberals strongly condemned the early release of the men, whose movement was designed to intimidate Palestinians in the occupied territories. Avner Rubenstein, a left-wing member of the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, called the early release of the three “a black day for the rule of law in Israel.”
Meanwhile, in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip on Wednesday, a Palestinian man in his 20s, seemingly without provocation, stabbed and wounded three Israeli soldiers on duty in Gaza City’s main Nasser Street. Police said an army officer standing nearby opened fire and killed the assailant.
No reason was adduced for the attack, and two of the soldiers remained in serious condition late Wednesday with chest wounds, police said.
In another development, a militant Jewish group called the Temple Mount Faithful announced late Wednesday that it will attempt to occupy the site of Solomon’s Temple, now a Muslim shrine, in the Old City this morning.
But police immediately said that the demonstrators will not be allowed inside the Temple Mount, which Arabs call Haram al Sharif, or “Noble Sanctuary.” Its grounds were the scene of bloody violence in October, when Palestinian protesters demonstrated after hearing that the Temple Mount Faithful were planning to occupy the site.
The Jewish militants--who want the area cleared to make way for a new Jewish temple--were dissuaded by police from demonstrating that day. But a Palestinian protest that ensued ended with 20 Arabs killed by police gunfire.