Man opposed to prisoner swap defaces Rabin memorial
A man who lost five family members in a 2001 suicide attack defaced a memorial to assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Friday in an apparent protest against an impending Palestinian prisoner swap, police said.
Police named the man as Shvuel Schijveschuurder, whose parents and three siblings were killed in the bombing of a Jerusalem pizzeria a decade ago.
Surveillance cameras showed him daubing the Tel Aviv memorial in paint and he was briefly detained by police before being released on bail.
Islamist group Hamas has said two Palestinians who helped carry out the suicide attack were among 1,027 prisoners Israel has agreed to free in return for the release of Gilad Shalit.
“His parents were killed in the bombing and he was apparently protesting against the prisoner exchange,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Images from the scene showed the memorial covered in white paint and sprayed graffiti on a wall calling for Rabin’s killer to be freed and the words “price tag”—a slogan associated with hardline Jewish West Bank settlers.
Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an ultra-nationalist Jew opposed to a negotiated peace deal with the Palestinians.
Debate has raged in Israel over the release of convicted Palestinian killers in such a large number in exchange for one person. Many of those opposed are relatives of people killed in attacks who say the freed prisoners will return to militancy.
The 2001 pizzeria bombing killed 15 people and came in the early stages of the second Palestinian Intifada. One of those held responsible for the attack was a young woman, Ahlam Tamimi, who drove the suicide bomber to the target.
She is serving a life sentence for her role in the blast and is expected to be sent into exile to Jordan after her release, which is due next Tuesday as part of the Shalit deal.
The prisoner swap, over three years in the making, was finally brokered last week with Egyptian mediation between Israel and the Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.
Some 450 Palestinian men and 27 women are due to be freed in the first phase of the swap, with Shalit expected to be handed over to Israel simultaneously. A further 550 Palestinians will be released next month.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh described the deal as a “victory for Gaza” in a speech following Friday prayers. He said he expected the deal to be done on Tuesday, which he said would be a “national and historic day of joy.”
Israel is set to publish the official list of prisoners it will free late on Saturday or early on Sunday. It has already said that almost 300 of them are men are serving life terms.
After the list is released on the Israel Prisons Authority web site, there will be a 48-hour period during which the Supreme Court can hear legal objections.
Families of the Israeli victims have said they will protest, but this is not expected to halt the swap, which has broad political and public support in Israel.
Shalit was kidnapped by militants who tunneled into an Israeli army border position next to Gaza in 2006. Israeli forces had withdrawn from Gaza a year earlier, shutting off the coastal enclave behind a heavily guarded security fence.
Shalit was 19 when he was captured and is now 25. The last sign of life received from the soldier was a videotape made by his captors in September 2009 in which he pleaded for his life.
Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Editing by Crispian Balmer and Alistair Lyon