IDF troops 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Six years after a suicide bomber he dispatched blew up in the middle of Pessah seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya, the IDF on Tuesday night arrested Hamas's top commander in Tulkarm, Omar Jaber.
Jaber, 54, was released from an Israeli prison in 1994 and began setting up a Hamas terror infrastructure in Tulkarm. In 2002, he was responsible for drafting the guide who led the suicide bomber to the Park Hotel and introduced him to Hamas's top commander in Tulkarm at the time, Abbas Said.
Later, Jaber planned the route that the guide would take with the bomber from Tulkarm to Netanya on seder night, March 27, 2002.
The suicide attack killed 30 Israelis and wounded over 140, prompting then-prime minister Ariel Sharon to launch Operation Defensive Shield, in which the IDF conducted military operations throughout the entire West Bank, including in every major Palestinian city.
Since 2002, military sources said, Jaber has been actively working to set up a Hamas military force in Tulkarm modeled after the Executive Force, which defeated Fatah forces and conquered the Gaza Strip in June. He was directly involved in financing the force, purchasing weaponry and recruiting fighters.
On Tuesday night, soldiers from the Nachshon Battalion, led by Lt.-Col. Nir Bar-On, received intelligence from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) that Jaber might be hiding in the home of one of his associates in Kfar Bala, on the outskirts of Tulkarm.
Bar-On and his men surrounded the home and took Jaber completely by surprise, capturing him without firing a single shot.
"Over the years, many units have tried to catch him, including Nachshon, which on a number of occasions was sent to homes of his associates looking for him," Bar-On said Wednesday.
Bar-On said that Jaber was an elusive terrorist who did not use regular means of communication for contacting Hamas operatives or family members. Over the years, the IDF arrested a number of close associates, slowly closing in on Jaber.
"He was a very secretive and cautious man who has been on the run for six years," the Nachshon commander said. "Capturing him today, six years after the attack and a day before [its] anniversary, is symbolic and shows how the IDF and the Shin Bet do not rest or stop even for a moment to protect the state of Israel."
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