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ISRAEL POLICE ACCUSED OF BRUTALITY

Police-brutality allegations against Israelis who are suspected of forming an anti-Arab underground have led some Israelis to question the harsh measures used for years to fight Palestinian terrorism.

Even the head of the secretive Shin Bet security agency was criticized Sunday over the alleged beatings of Jewish prisoners and confining of a Jewish settler to a coffin-size cell for three days.Since Sept. 2, police have rounded up at least eight Israeli suspects, including two men arrested Sunday. More arrests are expected in the largest Israeli crackdown on suspected Jewish extremists in years.

Most suspects are from the Hebron area in the West Bank, where a Jewish settler massacred 29 Palestinians in a mosque in February.

Authorities fear that Jewish extremists, as well as Palestinian militants, are planning attacks that could sabotage the Israel-PLO peace agreement.

Police have refused to say what the young men are charged with. Police Minister Moshe Shahal would only say authorities acted to abort a planned attack on Palestinians in the Jerusalem area.

With little evidence surfacing, and suspects being denied access to their lawyers for days while facing a judge behind closed doors, the cases are becoming more a civil liberties issue than a security problem.

Military rules such as keeping detainees incommunicado for up to three weeks have, in the past, been imposed mostly against Palestinians. For years, few Israelis questioned such practices openly, maintaining that harsh tactics were the price for aborting terror attacks.

But the public is getting angry at reports the same tactics are being used against Israelis.

Newspaper headlines have blared allegations by one key suspect, Oren Edri, that security agents put him in solitary confinement during his first three days in detention. He said he was bitten by rats in his 3-by-4 1/2-foot cell.