Jewish Settler Suspected of Planning Attacks on Palestinians

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A Jewish settler was charged Friday with stealing weapons from the Israeli military, and prosecutors said he was procuring arms for Jewish vigilantes suspected of killing eight Palestinians.

Police also found a large weapons cache in a West Bank cave, including M-16 assault rifles, machine-guns, three anti-tank rockets, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and dozens of grenades — all stolen from the Israeli army.

The Jewish settler, Shahar Dvir-Zeliger, faces seven charges, including being an accomplice to murder, stealing weapons, and belonging to a terrorist group. He is the third suspected member of a Jewish militant cell to be charged, authorities said.

An official in Israel's Shin Bet (search) security service said on condition of anonymity that Dvir-Zeliger was responsible for procuring arms for the group, known as Bat Ayin (search) after the West Bank settlement where their activity was centered. The man lived in the nearby settler outpost of Adei-ad.

The official said Dvir-Zeliger, a reserve soldier, stole arms from soldiers sent to protect West Bank settlements and from army bases. Ballistics tests also matched the seized rifles to those used in attacks against Palestinians, the official said.

Israeli authorities say the group was behind shootings that killed eight Palestinians, including a baby, and four failed bombing attempts, including a plan last year to detonate a bomb at a Palestinian girls' school in Jerusalem.

The attacks apparently were carried out in revenge for attacks by Palestinian militants that have killed more than 850 Israelis since the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian violence erupted nearly three years ago. In that period, 2,470 people have been killed on the Palestinian side.

The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem (search) said it knows of 15 killings of Palestinians in the past three years in which Jewish militants are suspected.

Israeli authorities have detained nine suspected members of the Jewish terror cell, with three of those being charged. The other six were released.

The emergence of the Jewish militant group is reminiscent of the so-called "Jewish Underground" that attacked Palestinians in the 1980s. Those attacks included a shooting at the Islamic University in Hebron in 1983 in which three students were killed.

Twenty-eight Israelis were sentenced for their activity in the militant group.