Israel captures top Hamas terrorist

Friday, October 15, 2004

JERUSALEM Israel's military has captured Hamas's leading operative in the West Bank.

Israeli officials said Imad Kawasmeh surrendered to Israeli troops in Hebron on Wednesday. The officials said Kawasmeh, 31, was regarded as the most lethal Hamas operative in the West Bank and responsible for numerous suicide strikes in Israel.

The last strike was the double suicide bombings of Israeli buses in Beersheba in August 2004. Sixteen Israelis were killed in the attacks.

"He was an arch-murderer," Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said. "I hope his capture will strike a blow to the Hamas infrastructure in Hebron and reduce attacks from that area."

[In the Gaza Strip, at least five Hamas insurgents were killed in Israeli missile strikes on early Thursday. The Israeli air strikes took place in the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip and Rafah in the south.]

Military sources said Kawasmeh was captured in a joint operation by the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Security Agency as a result of intelligence information. The sources said Kawasmeh, the Hamas commander in Hebron, was located in a home of a family member and surrendered to Israeli forces when an Israeli bulldozer began to demolish the building.

Kawasmeh was in an Israeli prison from 1994 until 1999, accused of being a Hamas operative and involved in the manufacture of bombs used against Israeli vehicles. By 2000, the sources said, he returned to become a leading Hamas operative.

Under Kawasmeh's leadership, the Hebron cell became the most active in Hamas's network in the West Bank. Kawasmeh was said to have worked with Hamas cells in Jerusalem and Nablus for attacks in Israel in 2003.

Several of the attacks planned by Kawasmeh failed. They included a June 2004 plot to carry out a suicide attack in Jerusalem. The failed attempt led to the killing of one cell member and the arrest of several others in Hebron and Jerusalem.

"After the suicide attack in Beersheba, dozens of Hamas terrorists were arrested and investigated," a military source said. "The results of the investigations showed that Imad Kawasmeh was the director of a wide network of terrorists and assistants guided by Kawasmeh to plan and carry out suicide and shooting attacks. Some of the terrorists were recently arrested and are now being questioned."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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