Arab cell in Jerusalem helps Hamas with suicide logistics

Special to World
Thursday, October 23, 2003

JERUSALEM Hamas relies heavily on Arabs in Jerusalem for logistics, recruitment and operations to facilitate suicide bombings in Israel.

Israeli security sources disclosed the role Hamas's presence in Jerusalem in wake of the capture of the organization's leading cell in the city. The Hamas cell was accused of facilitating three suicide operations over the last few months that resulted in the deaths of nearly 50 people.

Hamas has employed Arab residents of Jerusalem to designate targets in Israel, provide haven for suicide bombers, equip them with explosive belts and transport them to their target, the sources said. Arab residents of Jerusalem, classified as permanent Israeli residents, have free of movement throughout the Jewish state.

The Israel Security Agency has captured three Hamas members in eastern Jerusalem accused of planning the Aug. 19 suicide bombing of an Israeli bus in Jerusalem. The attack on the bus filled with Jews returning from the Western Wall resulted in 23 dead and 120 injured.

[On Thursday, Hamas gunners fired a Kassam-class short-range missile from the Gaza Strip into Israel. The missile landed in the Negev Desert and nobody was injured.]

Security sources said the group worked for Hamas cells in Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah. They said the Jerusalem cell, recruited earlier this year, was ordered to welcome the suicide bomber, outfit him and direct him to his target.

An ISA statement said the head of the captured Hamas cell, identified as Nassim Zaatari, 22, was recruited to the organization's military wing in April 2003. Zaatari's recruiter was Ahmed Bader, Hamas's commander in Hebron who was killed by Israeli forces on Sept. 9.

The Jerusalem cell -- which was also said to comprise Abdullah Sharbati, 22, and Majdi Zaatari, 25 -- was ordered to provide haven to Raad Misek of Hebron. The ISA statement said Misek was taught how to detonate a explosive belt.

The cell targeted a bus line from the Western Wall after noticing that the vehicle was always filled with Jewish worshippers. Misek was transported to the No. 2 bus line which he boarded and detonated the explosive belt.

"At the time of their arrests, the cell members were planning to orchestrate three more suicide bombings in Jerusalem," the ISA statement said.

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