Barak: If PA lets killers go, we'll get them

Defense minister says Friday's attackers should rot in jail; PA minister: They were only trying to steal weapons.

barak 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
barak 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The terrorists responsible for the killing of two Israeli hikers near Hebron on Friday should rot in prison, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday in an interview with Israel Radio. "If the Palestinian Authority opens a revolving door for them, [Israel] will know how to get them," Barak said. The gunmen surrendered to Palestinian security forces in Hebron on the day of the attack out of fear that they would be caught by the IDF. They also handed over the soldiers' weapons. Meanwhile, the radio station reported, PA Information Minister Riad Malki denied the Shin Bet's (Israel Security Service) claim that two of the attackers were members of the PA, and one of them was a member of the official PA security forces. In an interview on Voice of Palestine radio, Malki also denied that the incident was a terror attack, claiming it was "simply" the result of the men attempting to take the soldiers' weapons away from them. Israel was lying about the incident and looking for excuses to evade its road map obligations, Malki said. Earlier, sources in the PA told the NRG website that the Palestinians did not intend to hand the men over to Israel. The two would stand trial and serve out their sentences in Palestinian hands, the sources said. Also Wednesday, Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra said the Palestinian Authority would be tested by the punishment it gives the perpetrators, Israel Radio reported. Ezra stated that the PA must rid itself of members acting against its policy. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert discussed the attack as well as the new Shin Bet information in a special meeting with Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the radio station said. Despite the recent developments, negotiations with the PA would not be stopped, a senior official said. Security officials have said that the attack was premeditated and that the terrorists' goal had been to kill the hikers and steal their weapons. The officials said that declarations in the media by Palestinian officials that the incident was of a criminal nature and that Amihai and Rubin had been trying to sell their weapons were in direct contradiction to the findings at the scene, as well as to the confessions of the terrorists themselves. The declarations, they said, were likely an attempt by the PA to skirt responsibility for the incident, particularly because the terrorists were Fatah operatives and members of the PA security forces.