Iran financing tied to teen suicide attacks by Fatah

Special to World
Wednesday, August 13, 2003

RAMALLAH Iran has financed a new wave of suicide strikes by loyalists to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Israeli and Palestinian sources said Iranian-organized squads from the northern West Bank city of Nablus have been responsible for two suicide bombings against Israeli civilian targets on Tuesday. The sources said the squads were comprised of current and former PA officers as well as insurgents from the ruling Fatah movement.

Iran has recruited about 100 Palestinian insurgents in Nablus and Jenin over the last year, the sources said. They have been ordered by Iran and the Lebanese-based Hizbullah to maintain suicide strikes against Israel amid a truce declared by insurgency groups on June 29.

[Hizbullah has renewed anti-aircraft strikes against northern Israeli communities. On Wednesday, Hizbullah gunners fired 357 mm shells toward Israel, but officials said none of them landed in Israeli communities.]

On Tuesday, two Israelis were killed and 11 were injured in two suicide bombings in separate Israeli communities. In one attack, a Palestinian blew himself up in a supermarket in the Israeli town of Rosh Ha'Ayin, killing one Israeli and wounding 10.

An hour later, a Palestinian detonated his explosive belt at the entrance to the Israeli city of Ariel in the West Bank. One Israeli was killed and one other was injured.

Israeli and Palestinian sources said the Ariel attack was the work of Hamas and the Rosh HaAyin strike was carried out by Hamas. Later, the sources said both attacks were carried out by Fatah. Both of the suicide bombers were teenagers.

"This was carried out by rebel factions of Fatah," Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon said.

On late Tuesday, a Palestinian insurgent opened fire on an Israeli bus near the Ramallah-area village of Silwad. Nobody was hurt. Hours later, Israeli military sources said seven Palestinians were arrested in the northern West Bank. They said at least two of them comprised a would-be suicide bomber and his handler.

Israeli officials said the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon does not plan to launch a major military operation in retaliation for the suicide strikes. They said Sharon has agreed to a U.S. request to maintain a truce with Palestinian insurgency groups.

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