Israeli missile kills Islamic Jihad leader in safe house

Special to World
Friday, August 15, 2003

RAMALLAH The Islamic Jihad commander of a major West Bank city has been killed in an Israeli military operation.

Israeli special forces attacked a home in Hebron that was used as a safe house by Mohammed Sidr, regarded as the commander of Islamic Jihad in the southern West Bank. The forces surrounded the building, which contained a carpentry workshop, and fired a missile that killed Sidr. Later, the building was demolished.

Israeli officials said Sidr was high up on Israel's most wanted list in the West Bank. They said Sidr was responsible for killing 19 Israelis and the wounding of 82 others.

Sidr, 25, was also said to have ordered the operation that killed two international observers deployed in Hebron in 2002. The observers came from the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, established in 1995.

"It should be stressed that Sidr was in the midst of planning to carry out a terrorist attack in the coming days," an Israeli military statement said.

Israeli security sources said Sidr was the chief liasion with Islamic Jihad headquarters in Damascus. They said Sidr also built a laboratory to produce and improve the lethality of explosives.

Sidr also recruited, armed and trained suicide squads, the security sources said. They said Israel has received 25 alerts of suicide bombings and other attacks against civilian and military targets.

The Palestinian Authority has condemned the Israeli military operation in Hebron. Jihad has vowed to take avenge Sidr's death.

Meanwhile Palestinian security forces have clashed with Islamic Jihad insurgents in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian sources said a shootout erupted on late Wednesday during an attempted arrest of a Jihad insurgent. The sources said PA officers had suspected the insurgent of leading an attack on a PA security installation. One Jihad insurgent was injured in the shootout, the sources said. The fugitive escaped.

The PA Interior Ministry has confirmed the clash in Gaza City. A ministry statement said PA forces sought to arrest Ala Qaidan, a member of Jihad's Al Quds military wing.

The ministry said Qaidan was a suspect in a bombing attack of the PA Preventive Security Apparatus installation on Aug. 3 in the northern Gaza Strip. The statement said Qaidan planted and then detonated the bomb in front of the PSA building.

There were no reports of injuries among the PA police in the Gaza City shootout. Palestinian sources said insurgents from Jihad and the ruling Fatah movement have staged several attacks against installations of the PSA and Military Intelligence, the latter headed by Mussa Arafat, the nephew of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat.

The Jihad attack was attributed to a PA effort to confiscate illegal weapons in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian sources said an unspecified number of raids have targeted Jihad and other insurgency groups in the region.

Israeli and Palestinian sources said PA Security Affairs Minister Mohammed Dahlan has taken other steps to neutralize Jihad. On Friday, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Dahlan's ministry seized $3 million in funds transferred from Iran to Jihad.

Over the weekend, an Egyptian security delegation is expected to arrive in the Gaza Strip in an effort to maintain a lid on tensions between Palestinian insurgency groups and the PA. Palestinian sources said the delegation was part of an Egyptian effort to maintain a truce between the insurgency groups and Israel.

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