Israel hits Hamas infrastructure, arrests 130 in Hebron

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

JERUSALEM Israel's military has launched a search operation for Hamas insurgents in the West Bank at the same time the United States has intensified efforts to achieve a ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority..

Israeli military sources said the focus of the operation was the southern West Bank city of Hebron. The sources said a combined task force of regular and special troops operated in Hebron on Tuesday and arrested scores of Hamas insurgents and supporters.

So far, the sources said, more than 130 Hamas members and supporters were arrested, Middle East Newsline reported. They said they operation was meant to eliminate the Hamas infrastructure in the city in wake of the killing of Hamas's commander in the West Bank, Abdullah Qawasmeh.

Qawasmeh led a Hamas cell that was said to have killed more than 50 Israelis in a series of suicide bombings in such cities in Haifa and Jerusalem. He was killed in an Israeli operation in Hebron over the weekend.

"The activity is meant to destroy the Hamas infrastructure, " Lt. Col. Doron, a senior commander in the operation, said.

Doron said the identity of the Hamas members came from intelligence sources. He said the Hamas members did not resist arrest.

The military sources said the operation was prompted by a need for additional intelligence on Hamas cells in Hebron. They said Israeli military intelligence had warned of a shortage of information on what was regarded as the largest Hamas stronghold in the West Bank.

Israeli military sources said another 20 Palestinian insurgents, many of them Hamas members, were arrested in other areas of the West Bank overnight Tuesday.

The two sides have discussed the transfer of security responsibility for the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Bethlehem from Israel to the PA.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas gunners fired a Kassam-2 short-range missile toward Israel. Mortars were also fired toward Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip.

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