Hamas restoring terror network in Hebron

Special to World
Friday, September 3, 2004

JERUSALEM Hamas has restored its insurgency network in the southern West Bank.

Hamas was said to have rebuilt its network in Hebron over the last few weeks, Israeli security sources said. The Hebron cell claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings in the Israeli city of Beersheba in which 16 people were killed and 100 were injured.

Two buses about 100 meters apart were targeted and blown up by the Hamas operatives. The attacks were said to have been ordered by Imad Qawasmeh, head of the Hamas network in Hebron and a cousin of one of the suicide bombers. Qawasmeh was said to have received funds from Hamas headquarters in Syria.

The Hamas attack on Tuesday was the bloodiest in Israel since the Israeli assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin in March 2004. Since then, Hamas has threatened but failed to launch a series of revenge attacks. Israeli sources said Hamas has rebuilt some of its infrastructure in the West Bank, including in the cities of Bethlehem and Hebron. But they said the organization remains far weaker than it was in 2003.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli troops captured a would-be suicide bomber who tried to enter the Erez terminal in the northern Gaza Strip. The sources said the attempt indicated Hamas has planned a series of attacks on the eve of the resumption of the school year.

In Tuesday's attack, two Hamas suicide bombers blew themselves up on buses in Beersheba. A Hamas communique later said the strikes were to avenge the Israeli killings of Yassin and his deputy, Abdul Aziz Rantisi. Both suicide bombers came from Hebron.

Earlier, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon released a new timetable to implement his plan for unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank. The plan called for the submission of legislation to the Knesset by Nov. 3, the day after the U.S. presidential elections, for the withdrawal of and compensation to nearly 10,000 people.

Sharon has ordered the Israeli military to be responsible for the evacuation of the Israelis from 25 communities in the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank. The military would be aided by the nation's police force.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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