<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> WorldTribune.com: Mobile Hamas suspected of pressuring Arab employees of Israel security forces

Hamas suspected of pressuring Arab employees of Israel security forces

Thursday, July 3, 2008 Free Headline Alerts

JERUSALEM Israel has become concerned that its large Palestinian work force is being infiltrated by Hamas.

Officials said authorities have determined that Hamas and Islamic Jihad were identifying and contacting Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who work for the Israeli government or security forces.

They said the Palestinian insurgency groups were trying to pressure these workers to exploit their access to facilitate plans for mass-casualty strikes. "Hamas has a very large presence in Jerusalem as well as in several Israeli cities and they conduct intelligence operations regarding where Arabs work and their potential for damage," an official said.

On Wednesday, at least three Israelis were killed and 40 others were injured when a Palestinian contractor for the state's light rail project commandeered a huge bulldozer and plowed into cars and buses in downtown Jerusalem. The Palestinian, a 30-year-old from Jerusalem with a criminal record, was killed by an off-duty Israeli soldier.

"To our regret the attackers do not cease coming up with new ways to strike at the heart of the Jewish people here in Jerusalem," Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski said. Officials said they were uncertain whether the Palestinian, a convicted rapist and drug dealer, was recruited by Hamas to conduct the attack.

Hamas did not claim responsibility, but praised the killing of Israeli civilians. "We consider it as a natural reaction to the daily aggression and crimes committed against our people in the West Bank and all over the occupied lands," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said. The Fatah militia, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, was among three Palestinian groups that claimed responsibility. Al Aqsa has been formally under the leadership of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

"It looks as if it was a spontaneous act," Israeli police chief Dudi Cohen said. But officials said the Palestinian bulldozer driver, who appeared to have been headed for the crowded Mahane Yehuda market, carefully planned his attack. They said the driver was probably under pressure from Hamas regarding debts or accusations that he had collaborated with Israel.

"The way these things start is that Arab employees of the government, particularly if they are Palestinians, come under pressure to prove that they are not working for the Israeli security services," the official said. "This can sometimes lead to a terrorist act."

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