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Ha'aretz: "Settlers: We hope IDF soldiers die, become like Gilad Shailt"

"Whoever expresses himself in such a manner belongs in jail," Olmert said during yesterday's weekly cabinet meeting. "We've had enough of all this violence


By Nadav Shragai, Yuval Azoulay, Barak Ravid and Jonathan Lis

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz called for an incitement investigation against right -wing activists yesterday, hours after rioting by settlers in the West Bank that included desecrating headstones at a Muslim cemetery between Hebron and Kiryat Arba and damaging more than 80 Palestinian vehicles.

During the rioting, settlers hurled abuse at security forces personnel and called for a "revenge attack" in response to the Saturday night evacuation of an illegal outpost built by right-wing activist Noam Federman near Kiryat Arba.

"We hope they will be defeated by their enemies, that they will all be [captive soldier] Gilad Shalit, that they will all be killed and all slaughtered because this is what they deserve," a protester shouted.

Mazuz said in a statement yesterday that such comments "crossed a red line" and were not protected under freedom of speech. The settlers' calls for violence against the security forces also drew fire from outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who said anyone inciting violence against troops belongs in jail, and Peace Now, which called the violence "the settlers' terrorism."

"Whoever expresses himself in such a manner belongs in jail," Olmert said during yesterday's weekly cabinet meeting. "We've had enough of all this violence - verbal violence that leads to physical violence - and we will not abide this."

Federman, who was arrested on Saturday night on suspicion of assaulting a police officer and obstructing police from carrying out their duty, was ordered released last night when the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court slammed the police for having insufficient evidence. Police said he forcibly resisted arrest, kicking and hitting police officers, though an accusation that he broke a police officer's leg proved false. Federman's lawyer, Ariel Atari, said he plans to file a complaint with the police investigation department against the police officers involved in the incident.

During the rioting, a number of settlers were arrested for attacking a police officer, and two women were arrested after they attempted to torch a police car. Settlers also smashed windows and punctured the tires of more than 80 Palestinian vehicles and caused damage worth an estimated hundreds of thousands of shekels to the security fence surrounding Kiryat Arba. Two police cars were also damaged during the altercations.

Settlers argued that security forces carried out the evacuation without presenting their permits and that they did not give the outpost's residents time to pack up their belongings.

The Israel Defense Forces said it had all the necessary authorization and added that alerting the settlers in advance would have defeated the purpose of the raid.

"In this operation, as in other operations, we cannot give advanced warning as such an announcement would thwart the implementation of the mission," said IDF spokesman Avi Benayahu. "There were previous instances in which we gave advanced warning, and it was thwarted because of some organizing. The demolition was carried out in accordance with the appropriate permits."

Benayahu also said the extremist comments directed at the troops "do not represent the vast majority of Judea and Samaria settlers."

The Yesha settlement council issued a condemnation of the verbal attacks, branding those responsible for them as "troublemakers."

"The defamatory words that were spoken by troublemakers this morning against IDF soldiers are particularly grave, and deserve every condemnation," the council said. "But there is nothing in this to lessen the gravity of the acts the government has initiated in Hebron including the evacuation of a farm in which Jews have lived for two years and the insertion of Palestinian police in the city."

Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer called on Defense Minister Ehud Barak to stop worrying about the next election campaign and take aggressive action against what he called the "terrorism" carried out by the settlers and the right wing.

"We must embark on a widespread police and military operation to eradicate the settlers' terrorism, before elections take place," he said.

During the cabinet meeting, Barak said right-wing extremists should receive harsher punishments for such outbursts, while Vice Premier Haim Ramon called for immediate arrests.

"Everyone who this morning called for violence against IDF soldiers must be arrested immediately," said Ramon. "If an Arab had urged on the radio for attacks against IDF soldiers, he would have already been arrested long ago. [Our] behavior must be exactly the same toward the settlers."

Earlier this year, Barak and settler leaders reached an agreement to dismantle some 26 outposts built on private Palestinian land after March 2001.