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Israel holds 7 Arab Israelis over soldier killing

Written by: Staff

JERUSALEM, June 13 (Reuters) Israeli police arrested seven Arab citizens today as suspects in the killing of a soldier after he shot dead four Arabs on a bus last year, police said.

Leaders of Israel's minority Arab community denounced the arrests as discriminatory, saying the soldier had been killed as an act of defence in the Aug. 4 incident after he went on a shooting rampage in the Israeli Arab city of Shfaram.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon denounced the soldier, Eden Nathan Zada, at the time as a ''bloodthirsty terrorist''.

Zada shot dead two Muslim sisters and two Christian men before an angry mob stormed the bus and beat him to death. Mickey Rosenfeld, a spokesman for national police, said officers arrested seven men from Shfaram suspected of involvement in killing Zada. They would be brought before a judge today.

''Our main aim is to bring those who committed the cold-blooded murder of Zada to trial and justice,'' Rosenfeld said. Months of police investigation had enabled them to identify the suspects, he added.

Mohammed Barake, an Israeli Arab lawmaker from Shfaram, accused the police of ''turning the victim into the criminal''. Those who turned on Zada had to ''defend themselves against an armed man who may have killed someone else'', he said.

Israeli Arab leaders will meet to weigh legal action and protests, Barake said.

Arabs make up 20 percent of Israel's population and frequently complain of unfair treatment.

Reuters SHB GC1922

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