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Jailed Palestinian said to be directing attacks

Special to World
Tuesday, May 6, 2003

RAMALLAH A jailed Palestinian leader is said to be directing joint insurgency operations against Israel.

Palestinian sources said Marwan Barghouti, the jailed West Bank leader of the ruling Fatah movement, has been directing an insurgency campaign against Israel from his jail cell. The sources said Barghouti has been in constant contact with Fatah, Hamas and other insurgents for an escalation of attacks against Israel.

"He's on the phone every day with a range of Palestinian operatives, relaying orders and money," a Palestinian security source said. "He has supporters, particularly in Nablus."

The sources said Barghouti intends to demonstrate to his Israeli captors that his detention would only increase insurgency attacks. They said Barghouti has suggested that he could help end the Palestinian war once he is released.

On Monday, an Israeli court sentenced Barghouti's chief aide, Nasser Awis, to 14 life terms plus 50 years. Awis, co-founder of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, was convicted of directing a series of attacks that killed 14 Israelis in 2001 and 2002.

Over the last 10 days, Fatah has carried out several suicide bombings in Israel. Two of the suicide bombings were joint operations -- with Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The sources said Barghouti's orders and telephone conversations have been arranged by his nephew, Ahmed, who is a cellmate of Barghouti in Beersheba prison. They said Ahmed is the Fatah leader's key liasion with the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Nablus and ensures his contacts with colleagues within and outside the Fatah movement.

The jailed Fatah leader has rejected the new government led by Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Barghouti said Abbas would be unable to disarm the Fatah militia.

On Monday, Palestinian sources said Israeli troops arrested a senior Palestinian Authority security officer. The officer was identified as Col. Suleiman Abu Motlaq, a senior official of the Preventive Security Apparatus in the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Hizbullah has begun deployment of new artillery along the Lebanese border with Israel.

Israeli military sources said the artillery was stationed in the central sector of southern Lebanon. They said Hizbullah brought several artillery batteries to the border earlier this year in an attempt to increase its deterrence against Israel.

On Monday, Hizbullah used its new artillery for an attack on Israeli positions in the eastern sector of the Israeli-Lebanese border near the disputed Shebaa plateau. Nobody was injured in the Hizbullah attack.

Hizbullah deployed several batteries of artillery and anti-aircraft artillery along the Lebanese-Israeli border in March. The weapons include 122 mm and 107 mm Katyusha rockets, 120 mm mortars, 57 mm anti-aircraft guns, Sagger and TOW anti-tank missiles.

Iran has been Hizbullah's chief weapons supplier and trainer. But military sources said Syria has provided Hizbullah with new short-range rockets and other munitions as part of an alliance between Damascus and the Shi'ite militia.

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