JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday blamed an extreme right-wing group for an attack on an Israeli peace campaigner and warned that the country was facing an ill-wind of extremism.
"Police and interior security were given orders to do their utmost to arrest the culprits as soon as possible," he told journalists after historian Zeev Sternhell was wounded by a pipe bomb at his home in Jerusalem on Thursday.
"This appears to be the work of a clandestine group (from the extreme right)," Olmert said.
He said there was a "direct link" between the attack on Sternhell and the assassination of former premier Yitzhak Rabin, who was gunned down by a right-wing Jewish extremist in 1995 for his efforts to make peace with the Palestinians.
"An evil streak of radicalism, malice, hatred and disregard of state law is threatening Israeli democracy," he told a cabinet meeting.
The Maariv newspaper said that the attack on Sternhell was carried out by a clandestine right-wing group which has carried out four other attacks using the same methods and explosive devices.
Sternhell suffered light injuries to his right leg when the bomb exploded as he was trying to close the door of his house. Fliers found in nearby streets called for the killing of left-wing activists.
Sternhell frequently contributes to the liberal Haaretz newspaper, writing columns critical of Israel's right-wing settlement movement and in favour of a negotiated peace with the Palestinians.
On Friday he himself blamed Jewish extremists, saying "only the extreme right could have perpetrated this crime, either an individual or a cell."
A delegation of rabbis visited Sternhell on Sunday charging that the attack was against democracy and Judaism, public radio said.
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