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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Bringing an eight-year manhunt to an end, Ibrahim Hamed, 41, commander of Hamas's military wing in the West Bank, surrendered to security forces Tuesday morning after troops surrounded his downtown Ramallah hideout and threatened to demolish it with him inside.
Wanted for masterminding some of the most murderous attacks of the second intifada - including the suicide attack at Jerusalem's Moment Caf and bombings at the city's Hebrew University and Zion Square - Hamed orchestrated attacks that left more than 60 Israelis and five Americans dead and wounded hundreds of others. He also worked to carry out strategic "mega-attacks" against Israel's infrastructure, buildings, railroad systems and gas depots, the army said.
The secretive Hamed was the most wanted fugitive in the West Bank, having narrowly eluded capture on two occasions, an IDF spokesperson said. In 2004, security forces managed to kill two of Hamed's lieutenants in Ramallah, but he got away at the last minute.
Before dawn Tuesday, elite policemen from the Yamam antiterror unit, backed by Dukifat infantry, surrounded a two-story home in the al-Balua neighborhood based on intelligence provided by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) that Hamed was holed up inside, said Col. Amir Abulafia, commander of the Binyamin Brigade.
Using megaphones, soldiers called on Hamed to surrender. When he refused, they opened fire and a bulldozer rammed the building, threatening to bring it down. Hamed emerged from the building and, following orders shouted in Arabic via megaphones, he stripped down to his underwear and surrendered, witnesses said. Soldiers entered the building and blew out the doors and windows in the two apartments as a robot searched for explosives. Two handguns were recovered, according to the IDF.
Abulafia, who led Tuesday's raid, said Hamas would have trouble replacing Hamed.
"What made him special was his creativity in finding very complex ways to attack Israelis," Abulafia said.
Farhat Assad, a Hamas political leader in the West Bank, told reporters, "This arrest seeks to undermine any chance of stability in the region."
Hamed grew up in the West Bank village of Silwad, and belongs to the same clan as Khaled Mashaal, the Damscus-based head of Hamas. Army officials were hopeful that interrogating Hamed would produce information about additional terror operatives and cells.
IDF operations directed against Hamas have become rarer in the last year, with security forces focusing on Islamic Jihad and Fatah's Aksa Martyrs Brigades, which have rejected calls for a cease-fire. "Any terrorist that has carried out attacks in the past, or is planning attacks against Israeli citizens will be arrested without a second thought, regardless to his affiliation," said Abulafia.
Twelve Palestinians were arrested by security forces in the West Bank late Monday night and Tuesday morning. In Psagot, north of Jerusalem, gunmen opened fire on an IDF post, the army said. Also before dawn Tuesday, a Kassam rocket was launched at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip. The rocket landed in the Western Negev. No one was wounded and no damage was reported in either incident.
Tuesday evening, A Kassam missile launched by Gaza terrorists landed in Kibbutz Gavim. The Red Dawn alert system warned residents of the incoming rocket, and no injures or damage was reported, Israel Radio reported
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