JERUSALEM ø Bodyguards of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser
Arafat have been recruited for suicide operations against Israel.
Israel military sources said special operations forces have
arrested at least one member of Arafat's Force 17 praetorian guard. Force 17
is responsible for Arafat's security and has branches throughout the West
Bank and Gaza Strip.
Arafat's ruling Fatah movement has been cited for being the leading
force in suicide operations against Israel. But the Israeli arrests marked
one of the first times that Arafat's bodyguards have been involved in such
Israeli security agents captured Muhammad Abu Lil, 18, on
Dec. 13 along with another Fatah agent from the West Bank city of Nablus,
both of whom were on their way to bomb a restaurant in the Israeli city of
Petah Tikva. The statement said Abu Lil's accomplice, Ahmed Abu Hawila, had
been recently recruited to Force 17.
A Fatah commander was said to have recruited suicide attackers from
Force 17. The sources identified Nader Abu Lil, a 25-year Fatah commander,
for responsibility for the recruitment of Force 17 and other Palestinian
security officers, as well as planning operations.
The information of Fatah's recruitment from Arafat's guard came in wake
of the arrest of suspected suicide squads in December. The suicide squads
were said to have been recruited and organized in Nablus.
Nader Abu Lil was also accused of having planned to launch a suicide
attack in January 2004. The military statement said an Israeli raid on Jan.
2 in Nablus's old city quarter yielded two large bombs meant for use in
Israel. A suspected suicide squad composed of Palestinians from Nablus-area
refugee camps was captured.
Military sources said the use of Arafat's bodyguards for attacks has
been encouraged by Iran and Hizbullah, which finance up to 90 percent of
Fatah insurgency operations. They said that in many cases Fatah has teamed
the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad or Hamas to launch operations in Israel.
On Wednesday, Israel's military reported that troops captured a Fatah
commander in the northern town of Tubas in the West Bank. The commander was
identified as Jihad Sawafta, who survived a previous assassination attempt
by Israeli forces.