Rocket-propelled grenades at West Bank cache, in first

Monday, September 27, 2004

JERUSALEM For the first time, Palestinian insurgents have succeeded in smuggling rocket-propelled grenades into the West Bank.

Israeli military sources said combat forces have found an arsenal that included RPGs outside the West Bank city of Ramallah. They said the cache found in the Ramallah suburb of Mukhmas on Thursday was the largest found in the West Bank in years.

Over the last two years, Palestinian insurgency groups, supported by the flow of weapons and components from Egypt, have produced and deployed RPGs in the Gaza Strip, Middle East Newsline reported. The weapons have been used for attacks on Israeli main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers and civilian vehicles. On Friday, a Palestinian rocket slammed into an Israeli home in the central Gaza Strip, injuring two people.

So far, the sources said, the military has not been able to identify the owners of the cache. They said the acquisition of RPGs marked an escalation of the insurgency in the West Bank, which had been based on assault rifles and explosive belts.

"There were 10 RPGs and perhaps even more than that," Col. Mickey, commander of Binyamina Brigade, said. "The introduction of the RPGs in the area significantly raises the threat to our forces and we have to be prepared for this."

Military sources said the amount of weapons found in Mukhmas exceeded that of any cache captured during the Israeli invasion of West Bank cities in 2002. They said Palestinian insurgency groups have invested heavily in restoring their cells and renewing attacks.

In May, an enhanced Soviet-origin RPG-7 destroyed an Israeli M113 APC along the Egyptian-Gaza border. At the time, Israeli military sources said the weapon was believed to have been produced by Egypt's state-owned defense industry and smuggled to the Gaza Strip.

In a separate development, Israel reported the foiling of a suicide attack by a Palestinian teenager in the northern city of Afula. Israeli officials said a 15-year-old from the northern West Bank city of Jenin was given 1,000 shekels, or $220, by Fatah and Islamic Jihad to blow himself up with a seven-kilogram bomb.

Officials said the bomb was hidden in a bag of flour and smuggled into the Jewish state via Palestinians allowed into Israel through a family reunification program. They said Israeli authorities have significantly boosted security throughout the country amid 40 alerts of a Palestinian attack during the Jewish fast of Yom Kippur.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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