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Jewish extremist head arrested after anti-Arab violence: police

2 min 19Approximate reading time

A Jewish extremist group's leader was arrested Monday after a Palestinian baby died in a West Bank firebombing, as police investigated online threats against Israel's president for condemning "Jewish terrorism".

The domestic intelligence service named him as Meir Ettinger, a grandson of Meir Kahane, a rabbi who founded the racist anti-Arab movement Kach and was assassinated in 1990 in New York.

He was arrested in Safed in northern Israel "because of his activities in a Jewish extremist organisation", a Shin Bet spokesman told AFP.

Police said Ettinger, who is aged around 20, was suspected of "nationalist crimes" but did not accuse him of direct involvement in Friday's firebombing.

According to Israeli media, he was the brains behind a June 18 arson attack on a shrine in northern Israel where Christians believe Jesus performed the miracle of loaves and fishes.

Ettinger was sue to appear in court on Tuesday for a custody hearing, police said.

Media reports said Ettinger could face a year of "administrative detention" under the government's harder line against "Jewish terrorists".

Israel normally applies the measure, which dates back to British-mandated Palestine, against Palestinians, allowing renewable six-month periods of detention without trial.

But it can now be used with Jewish detainees in cases of insufficient evidence to go to trial or if the suspect refuses to testify.

On his blog, Ettinger has in past days denied the existence of an underground Jewish organisation, but has defended attacks on "crimes" such as the existence of churches and mosques branded as "places of pagan worship".

The Shin Bet spokesman said Ettinger was in January barred from entering the West Bank or Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem for a year "because of his activities".

The Palestinians on Monday submitted a request to the International Criminal Court to probe the firebombing and "settler terrorism", their foreign ministry in the West Bank city of Ramallah said.

- 'Jewish terrorism' -

On a parallel track, police have opened an investigation into online threats against President Reuven Rivlin following his condemnation of "Jewish terrorism" after the West Bank firebombing, a presidential spokesman said Monday.

Rivlin had written a Facebook post following the arson attack by suspected Jewish extremists on a Palestinian family's home in the West Bank village of Duma.

The attack killed 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsha and critically injured his parents and four-year-old brother.

"More than shame, I feel pain," Rivlin wrote in both Arabic and Hebrew.

"The pain over the murder of a little baby. The pain over my people choosing the path of terrorism and losing their humanity.

"Their path is not the path of the State of Israel and is not the path of the Jewish people. Unfortunately, it seems that so far we've dealt with the phenomenon of Jewish terrorism limply," he wrote, calling for concrete measures against extremists.

Rivlin's post prompted a wave of more than 2,000 comments, some positive but others attacking him and recalling Israelis killed by Palestinians.

"Dirty traitor. Your end will be worse than (Ariel) Sharon's," said one comment quoted by Maariv newspaper, referring to the late Israeli former premier who spent eight years in a coma.

Another said: "In Russia you would have been found by this point cut up inside a shoe box."

Police said they had received material from the president's security team and had ordered an investigation to "examine offensive publications against the president on social media".

The state prosecutor launched a separate probe into two YouTube videos showing Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Nazi uniforms and speaking in German.

In 1995, then premier Yitzhak Rabin was gunned down at a peace rally in Tel Aviv by a Jewish extremist after a campaign of rightwing incitement against a peace deal with the Palestinians.

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