Palestinian boy with suicide suitcase targeted orphanage

Special to World
Thursday, March 27, 2003

JERUSALEM Israel has reported the capture of a Palestinian teenager sent on a suicide mission meant to kill hundreds of people.

Officials said the Palestinian target was a home for 180 orphans and homeless children in Jerusalem. They said a 17-year-old Palestinian from the Bethlehem area of the West Bank was sent with a suitcase filled with explosives to blow up the school.

"It was the kind of attack that we had been warning about for nearly a year and meant to change the strategic balance in the region," an official said.

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The Palestinian was said to have been sent on his mission by the Fatah militia, led by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. It was the first suicide mission attributed to Fatah in more than a month.

Officials said the Palestinian changed his mind as he entered Jerusalem from Bethlehem. They said he left the suitcase near a highway and fled to his home in El Khader, a suburb of Bethlehem.

Israeli soldiers found the suitcase and removed the explosives. Within days, the Palestinian was caught and confessed to the suicide mission.

Officials quoted the Palestinian as saying he had changed his mind when he realized that he was being ordered to kill an unprecedented number of people. So far, up to 30 people have died in any one Palestinian suicide mission.

On Thursday, a combined Israeli task force launched an operation in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun. Two PA security officers and a civilian were reportedly killed in the subsequent clash, and 10 others were captured in other areas of the Gaza Strip.

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