June 30, 2005

Sharon orders security crackdown on far-right Jews

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharonsaid he had ordered "every necessary step" to be taken toprevent Jewish ultranationalists from trying to derail his Gazawithdrawal plan through violence and road blockades.

Sharon lashed out at far-right Jews in newspaper interviewson Thursday after a day of clashes between security forces andanti-withdrawal activists in Gaza and on Israel's highways.

It was the worst day of violence between Israeli police andsoldiers and ultranationalists bent on scuttling Sharon's planto evacuate all 21 Jewish settlements in the occupied GazaStrip and four of 120 in the West Bank in August.

"Every incident of this sort of rampaging must stop. I havegiven clear instructions. We will take every necessary step sothat life in Israel proceeds normally," Sharon told the dailyYedioth Ahronoth.

On Wednesday, anti-Arab Kach radicals squatting in a housein a Palestinian district outside the Gush Katif settlementseriously wounded a Palestinian youth by throwing rocks at hishead from close range during stone-throwing clashes.

Israeli soldiers later stormed the building and ousted theKach members, mainly youths, who had been intent onestablishing a stronghold of resistance to the planned settlerevacuation. Thirty rightists were arrested.

Israeli police also arrested 150 anti-pullout demonstratorswho tried to block highways around Israel during Wednesday'sevening rush hour.

Sharon, in an interview with the Haaretz daily, called theassault on the Palestinian youth "an act of savagery, vulgarityand irresponsibility. We cannot let a small group of lawbreakers impose a reign of terror."

Opponents of Sharon's plan to "disengage" from conflictwith the Palestinians seeking statehood have threatened tobring Israel to a halt ahead of the pullout.

Some ultranationalists have also threatened violence, andthe lives of Sharon and the army chief of staff.

"They have said they will set the country on fire. Theywon't set anything on fire. Every one of us must understand andfight this dangerous phenomenon," Sharon told Yedioth Ahronoth.

Israeli media said security forces would put a number ofradicals under detention without trial and that judicialofficials would demand harsh sentences for demonstratorsblocking roads or those who throw nails on them.

On Wednesday, suspected opponents of the Gaza withdrawalthrew spikes and spilled oil on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway,causing major traffic jams and at least 20 tire blowouts.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ordered the perpetrators becharged with willfully endangering human life on the roads, acharge that carries a 20-year maximum jail term, Haaretz said.