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Monday, October 17, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israel set to release leading Hamas terror planners

TEL AVIV — Israel has confirmed that it was releasing veterans of the Hamas insurgency network in the West Bank.
  • Related Story: Hamas reports increased Israeli drone ops as prisoner exchange nears October 17

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    The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has acknowledged that it planned to free the leading planners of Hamas suicide attacks over the last decade. The Prison Service said the detainees, regarded as Hamas' top planners, would be released by Oct. 19, with many of them headed for exile in the Gaza Strip, Middle East Newsline reported. Another 40 were expected to be sent to Qatar, Syria and Turkey.

    "Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, or someone in the Gaza Strip goes beserk, it appears the deal will take place in two days," National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror said.

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    The Prison Service released the names of 477 Palestinians and Israeli Arabs set for release over the next 48 hours in exchange for Sgt. Gilad Shalit, held captive in the Gaza Strip since 2006. The list contains the planners of the bloodiest Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians over the last decade.

    On the Israeli list was Nasser Yataima, identified as the planner of a suicide bombing in Netanya in which 30 civilians, most of them elderly hotel residents, were killed in 2002. The attack sparked an Israeli invasion of Arab cities throughout the West Bank.

    Another prisoner slated for release was Tamimi Ahlam. Ahlam was identified as the architect of the suicide bombing of a cafe in Jerusalem in 2002 in which 12 people were killed and 54 injured.

    "There is no clear criterion for the release — just a list out of nowhere," a petition to Israel's High Court that opposes the release said. "Until such a criterion is set, every release serves as a clear and certain opening to abductions and murders to come."

    Israel also agreed to release Musab Hashlemon. Hashlemon was said to have recruited and planned a multiple suicide bombing in buses in Beersheba in which 16 people were killed in 2004. For Hashelmon, this marked the second time he would be freed in a prisoner exchange.

    Officials said many of the leading Hamas operatives would be sent to the Gaza Strip rather than to their homes in the West Bank. But they acknowledged that they would probably be employed by Hamas to plan an insurgency campaign in the West Bank.

    Ibrahim Jundiya was also slated to be sent from an Israeli prison to the Gaza Strip. In 2002, Jundiya planned a Hamas suicide bombing in Jerusalem that killed 11 bus passengers. His colleague, Fadi Al Jabaa, who planned the suicide attack that killed 17 people in 2003, would also be transferred to the Gaza Strip.

    But officials said they doubted whether the High Court would block or even delay the prisoner release. But they did not rule out massive Palestinian unrest on the day of the release, including attacks on Israeli civilians.

    "You must prepare for a range of scenarios in the prisons and outside of them," Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich told prison officials on Oct. 16.

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