A small group vehemently opposed to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw Israelis from the Gaza Strip shouted at Netanyahu: "Murderer, your day will come" in the Thursday evening incident, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth said on Friday.

Reports said a plate was thrown at Netanyahu, now finance minister, at the wedding on Thursday night in the ultra-Orthodox village of Kfar Habad near Ben Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv, and a police spokesman said a tyre on his car was slashed.

Wedding guests held back the assailants as security guards whisked away Netanyahu, 55, in another vehicle.

"We believe that the heckling was carried out by up to three minors, although nobody has been arrested yet," police spokesman Gil Kleiman said.

He said officers would examine camera film and video footage of the wedding to try to identify the attackers.

1995 assassination

Rightists regularly heckled and threatened politicians in the days leading up to the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish ultra-nationalist opposed to his peacemaking efforts with the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office refused to comment on the Netanyahu incident. But Vice Premier Shimon Peres, the leader of the centre-left Labour party that is part of the governing coalition, said it was a grave matter.

"The attempt to attack Netanyahu was done only because of his views. It is incumbent upon us to condemn this trend," Peres told NRG, the website of the daily Maariv.

Reaction to attack

Settler leaders, who strongly oppose the Gaza pullout plan, expressed shock at the attack and another incident earlier this week in which Education Minister Limor Livnat was heckled by ultra-rightist backers of the settler movement.

Livnat has a brother who is a far-right settler activist.

"Violence and the use of force are not part of our way and we condemn it wholeheartedly," read a statement by the Yesha Council, the settlers' umbrella organisation.

Sharon told fellow Likud party members on Thursday of threats he had received over his Gaza plan.

He said he had heard slogans saying that his late wife, Lili, was waiting for him to join her. He berated fellow ministers for not speaking out against the threats.

"I was shocked, but what has stunned me even more was that I did not see any minister or member of parliament open their mouth on the matter," Sharon said.

Security changes

Ami Ayalon, a former head of the Shin Bet internal security service that is responsible for protecting senior politicians, said the Netanyahu incident showed that the Shin Beth had to tighten procedures.

"This is a serious breakdown which should not have happened as a senior minister, Netanyahu needs to be protected in such a way which will not allow such things," he said.

A spokesman for the Habad Hasidic group, whose members populate Kfar Habad, said the attackers had no connection to them and had apparently come to the wedding to heckle Netanyahu.