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ARABS-ISRAEL - Oct. 17 - Hardline Israeli Minister Killed.

Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi, 75, is shot and killed before 7 am as he was returning from breakfast to his 8th-floor room in the Hyatt Regency hotel in East Jerusalem, where he stayed when the Knesset was in session. He is hit by at least two bullets in the head and neck. Although he usually carried a pistol, police said he was unarmed at the time of the attack. He, by his own choice, elected not to have a bodyguard. (This is the first murder of a cabinet minister by Palestinians in Israel's 53-year history. Zeevi, who served in the Knesset since 1988, was a household name in Israel, reviled for his views by the dovish left and regarded as something of a throwback even by his colleagues on the hawkish right. Moshe Arens, a hardline former defence minister from Zeevi's own generation, said: "He [Zeevi] represented the Mayflower generation, people who fought for Israel's creation. And his political views were the very same ones on which he was educated". He was the most prominent and passionate advocate of what he called "transfer" and what Palestinians called "ethnic cleansing". It meant forcing or inducing the departure of more than 4m Arabs from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Sometimes he said the departure should be "voluntary", but Arabs believed he favoured outright expulsion, citing his inflammatory rhetoric as proof. He likened Palestinians working illegally in Israel to "lice" and a "cancer" that had to be eradicated. On Oct. 15, Zeevi announced his decision to quit the government to protest Sharon's timid military response to Palestinian attacks.

He said: "Look what we've gotten: funeral after funeral, explosion after explosion, attack after attack. Arafat is not a partner for peace, he's a liar, a man of blood". By law, his resignation would have taken effect 48 hours later, in the afternoon of Oct. 17). Shortly after Zeevi's death, the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) released a video taking responsibility for the murder and saying: "The assassination of the Zionist criminal Rehavam Zeevi is only the first step according to the principles of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and one head for three heads". The video said that, with the possible exception of Sharon, there was no one on the Israeli political scene who so inflamed Palestinians' fury as Zeevi, who regarded the Arabs as nothing but enemies, opposed all peace overtures and clung to the conviction that tough military action alone was the antidote to Israel's security problems. The PFLP said the Zeevi's killing was to avenge Israel's Aug. 27 assassination of its own leader, Mustafa Zibri.

In an emergency session of the Israeli cabinet, PM Sharon told government ministers that Zeevi's murder meant "a new era has begun", suggesting an extraordinarily harsh military response would be forthcoming. He blamed Arafat, who had failed to rein in terrorists, and several Israeli ministers likened the murder to the Sept. 11 suicide hijacker attacks in the US. Sharon told a special session of the Knesset: "We will wage all-out war on the terrorists, those who collaborate with them and those who send them". As an initial response, Israel re-imposed a tight blockade on Ramallah after having only relaxed it on Oct. 15. Jamil Tarifi, a PA minister, said: "Every time an incident like this occurs, Israel holds the Palestinian Authority responsible. It should be understood that the continuation of Israel's policy of assassinations was bound to cause a reaction on the Palestinian street". The UN special envoy for the Middle East Terje Roed-Larsen issued a statement on Arafat's behalf, saying the PA leader condemned the murder "in the strongest possible terms" and instructed his security chiefs to arrest the assassins and prevent further "acts of violence and terrorism". Israeli Radio said Arafat's security forces arrested a high-ranking member of the radical group in the West Bank, perhaps seeking to forestall an Israeli attack, but PA officials did not immediately confirm the arrest. Israel's General Security Service ordered bodyguards for all government ministers. On Oct. 18, Zeevi was buried with full military honours at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl cemetery. On Oct. 17, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up next to the Gaza fence inside Israel, killing himself and wounding two soldiers.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Oct 20, 2001
Words:717
Previous Article:ARABS-ISRAEL - Oct. 16 - Israel Brushes Off US Criticism Of Targeted Killings.
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