Hamas agent carbombed in Damascus

Special to World
Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A Hamas operative has survived an assassination attempt in Damascus, the second such car bombing against the Palestinian insurgency in Syria in less than three months.

Syria blamed Israel's Mossad for the bombing. Israel, which on Dec. 12 lost five soldiers to a massive bombing in the Gaza Strip in which Hamas and Fatah claimed responsibility, has not responded to the accusation.

Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan said a Hamas operative was the target of a car bombing in a blast at 3:45 p.m. Monday on a street in the southern Damascus neighborhood of Al Mazaa. The bomb was placed under the seat of the sports utility vehicle, but blew up after the operative and his family left.

The Hamas target was later identified by Palestinian sources as Musbah Abu Haweila, said to be in his 40s. Earlier, he was identified as Abu Suweila.

"The party behind this collaborates with the Israeli Mossad, or is the Mossad itself," Kanaan said.

Officials said three pedestrians were slightly injured in the blast. It was the second bombing in Damascus against a Hamas target since September 2004.

On Sept. 21, Izzedin Sheik Khalil, said to have been responsible for Hamas operations in the West Bank was killed by a car bomb, also attributed to Israel. At the time, Hamas said the Mossad was aided by an unidentified Arab intelligence agency.

The two attacks took place in the same area and used the same methods, officials said. Palestinian sources said Abu Haweila was a colleague of Khalil.

But an unidentified Syrian official was quoted by the official Syrian news agency as saying that Palestinians were behind the bombing. The official did not elaborate.

"The car belonged to a Palestinian, which leads us to believe it was an act of sabotage by Palestinian brothers living in Syria," the official was quoted as saying. "The explosion happened shortly after the Palestinian's family got out of the car, which saved their lives."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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