[On March 15, the Israeli military said it seized a ship suspected of
smuggling weapons to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Middle East Newsline reported. The ship, identified as
Victoria, was said to have begun its journey in Turkey and destined to the
Egyptian port of El Arish.]
The statement, first released on March 12, said the attacker returned
home safely after the mission. The squad termed the mission as successful.
Palestinian sources said the Mughniyeh squad stemmed from Iranian
support of West Bank militias for operations against Israel. They said the
Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah was responsible for funding and equipping Fatah
fighters, including Palestinian Authority police officers, to attack Israeli
soldiers and civilians.
Mughniyeh was believed to have been helped by other Iranian-supported
groups. The sources said previous squad operations were aided by Hamas,
which denied any role in the killings.
The status of Al Aqsa, which at one point contained more than 1,500
fighters, has been debated among diplomats. Most of the diplomats who serve
in the West Bank have concluded that Al Aqsa was no longer functioning. But
Palestinian sources said members of the insurgency group were still active
in planning attacks that could be credited to Fatah without implicating the
On March 14, however, Al Aqsa issued a statement that denied any
involvement in the killings. Al Aqsa said it opposed the "targeting of
civilians and killing of
children no matter what the pretext might be."