May 30, 2006

Israeli body-snatching case fuels religious divide

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli police said on Tuesday they
had given up searching for the corpse of a baby girl snatched
by ultra-Orthodox Jews who opposed her autopsy on the grounds
that it was a desecration of the dead.

Authorities said they believed that the tiny corpse had
been secretly buried after it was removed from a morgue in the
coastal city of Ashkelon on Sunday during a clash between
stone-throwing ultra-Orthodox protesters and police.

Police wanted an autopsy of the baby, who is believed to
have died after her ultra-Orthodox parents gave her herbal
remedies to cure an illness rather than prescribed antibiotics,
to determine whether the death was due to negligence.

Failing that, they had hoped to take blood or other fluid

"There were people within the community who understood and
realized we were going to carry out an autopsy and therefore
wanted to bury the baby as quickly as possible to prevent
this," said Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman.

Roadblocks were set up around Ashkelon to search cars
exiting the city, and police said on Tuesday that they still
hoped to find those responsible for sawing through an iron-bar
window and ferrying away the baby's corpse.

The body-snatching controversy is the latest clash in a
battle between ultra-Orthodox Jews, who make up about 15
percent of Israel, and their counterparts who favor the secular
laws on which the modern foundation of the Jewish state rests.

Some devout Jews do not recognize the state of Israel,
saying its establishment must await the messiah.

In recent years, ultra-Orthodox Jews have held violent
protests against road construction in areas where ancient human
remains were found.

Last month, ultra-Orthodox Jews rioted in Jerusalem after
police arrested an ultra-Orthodox man on suspicion he
physically abused his baby son who had died from head injuries.
The man was eventually released on house arrest pending an