A former head of the Shin Bet security service said Friday that the threat posed to Israel by a terrorist “underground” of religious far-right extremists has reached unprecedented levels, worse even than in the lead-up to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995.
“We’re at a worse point than before the assassination of Rabin,” said Carmi Gillon, who headed the agency when Rabin was murdered, in a Channel 2 interview on Friday night.
Gillon said that far-right extremists such as those currently in detention for their suspected involvement in the Duma firebombing in July are “a professional underground in every regard.” Three members of the Dawabsha family died in the July 31 terror attack; only one boy, Ahmed, now 5, survived but suffered severe burns.
According to the Hebrew-language paper Haaretz, among the detainees are the sons of two mainstream, respected rabbis, one of whom leads a pre-military course and the other who is the head of a widely known organization in the national religious sector.
Dozens of supporters of the Duma suspects were filmed earlier this month hailing the killings and demanding more “revenge” during frenzied celebratory dancing at a wedding in Jerusalem. The footage, broadcast on Israeli television earlier this week, was shown to right-wing and settlement leaders by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon as evidence of the dangerous trends among extremist youth.
Gillon warned of a terrorist underground “that aims to destroy the Jewish, democratic state of Israel.”
He said the use of what he indicated was “moderate” physical pressure during the interrogation of some of the suspects was necessary because the group was a “ticking bomb” that has been planning further attacks.
Responding to allegations that the service used torture in the interrogation of the Duma detainees, he said: “This is terrorism but also a ticking bomb – both conditions set by the High Court of Justice for allowing special permits in interrogations.”
His comments echoed a statement by the Shin Bet earlier this week, which defended the use of “special measures” in interrogations not only due to the seriousness of the crime but mainly because the detainees belonged to a Jewish terror organization that was planning further attacks.
Gillon said every such interrogation technique is used “in a very monitored way” and has been approved by the attorney general.
None of the suspects has been named since the Shin Bet imposed a gag order on the case.
Channel 10 reported that indictments in the fatal firebombing could be issued on Tuesday.
Channel 2 showed a slide which appeared to indicate some 100 far-right terror suspects are currently in jail, in detention, facing legal proceedings, or under restriction orders.
Gillon said the underground was comprised of youths mainly from West Bank settlements, many from “normative” homes.
Avi Dichter, another former Shin Bet chief and today a Likud MK, said on Channel 2 that an attack allegedly by Jewish terrorists on a Palestinian home in Ramallah earlier this week could also have led to fatalities. Smoke grenades were thrown into a home as the family slept inside. They escaped unharmed.
Meanwhile Channel 2 reported that some of teens seen dancing in the so-called “hate wedding,” where revelers brandished guns and knives and celebrated the murder of the Dawabsha family, are soldiers in mandatory service.
The names of some of the soldiers are “known” to security officials, the TV station said. One soldier handed his assault rifle to another guest, who then danced with the firearm above his head.
The TV report also said that security has been stepped up for leading Israeli state prosecution figures, including Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. It said the use of physical pressure on the Duma suspects had been approved by Weinstein and the Israeli cabinet.