JERUSALEM ø Israel has stopped a Palestinian effort to smuggle
suicide attackers in cargo containers meant for shipment from the Gaza
The officials said a Palestinian Authority
security officer sought to establish a Hamas-financed shipping company
to conceal suicide bombers in cargo sent from the Gaza Strip.
In March 2004, Hamas suicide attackers concealed in containers from the
Gaza Strip infiltrated the Israeli port of Ashkelon. The attackers walked
out of the containers and blew themselves up in the port, killing 10 Israeli
employees, Middle East Newsline reported.
Officials said identified the PA officer as Muin Atallah. They said
Atallah, arrested on June 6, was a security officer at the Karni terminal in
the eastern Gaza Strip and oversaw the entry of Palestinian cargo into
Israel. They said he planned to smuggle two suicide attackers out of the
Gaza Strip for an attack in the Jewish state.
Atallah was also said to have been involved in the smuggling of the two
suicide bombers in the Ashdod port bombing in March. The PA security officer
told Israeli interrogators earlier this month that his position gave him
wide access to cargo leaving the Gaza Strip.
"Atallah said that the terrorist organizations view the Karni crossing
as a weak point, lacking full security checks, and providing an attractive
route for smuggling terrorists into Israel," an Israeli security source
Israeli officials said the plot included the ruling Fatah movement and
the Islamic opposition Hamas.
Officials said Israeli authorities captured 58 would-be suicide bombers
in 2004. They said 2,000 Palestinian insurgents were arrested and that many
of them relayed information that helped foil suicide attacks in Israel.
"We are seeing a decline in the extent of terror and this has come at
great effort," Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said.
On Wednesday, an Israeli combat unit deployed in the northern Gaza Strip
town of Bet Hanoun in an attempt to stop the launch of Kassam-class
missiles by Hamas. At least six suspected insurgents were killed in the
operation, which began on Tuesday.
In the West Bank, Israeli troops captured the military leader of Islamic
Jihad in the northern city of Nablus. Israeli military sources said Muhana
Abu Aysha was an expert in the assembly of suicide belts given to
insurgents. Abu Aysha's aide was killed in Wednesday's military operation.