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Nachshon Battalion soldiers shot and killed the senior Hamas commander in Tulkarm, Tabeth Salah a-Din, early Tuesday when he opened fire while attempting to evade arrest. One soldier was wounded and was evacuated to hospital in Israel.
Soldiers searching Salah a-Din's home uncovered a makeshift bomb factory containing 10 kilograms of explosives, home-made bombs and electrical components used to make detonators.
Rafat Nasif, a Hamas leader in Tulkarm, blamed Israel for provoking bloodshed and warned that Salah a-Din's death would be avenged. In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Nasif said "this crime was committed while Hamas is abiding by the state of calm. The aim is to torpedo the calm; we will not remain silent."
According to the army, Salah a-Din was an expert in compiling powerful bombs and between 2003 and 2004, was involved in the planning of numerous suicide bomb attacks that were thwarted by security forces. In November 2003, he, together with Hamas members in Ramallah and Nablus, planned to smuggle a suicide bomber into Israel. He was also involved in attempts to launch a double suicide bomb attack in Rosh Ha'ayin in June 2004.
According to the army, in recent months, Salah a-Din was the driving force behind refurbishing the Hamas infrastructure in Tulkarm, and devoted his time to constructing powerful bombs to be used in attacks against Israel. Officials said it was only a matter of time before the attacks were to be launched, and that Salah a-Din was waiting to receive the green light from Hamas leaders abroad before launching the attacks.
Funds for his activities were received from Hamas operatives in Nablus, who also supplied him with the chemicals needed to construct the bombs.
In the pre-dawn raid, soldiers surrounded his home. Brandishing a rifle in each hand, a-Din opened fire on troops, wounding one soldier, and then attempted to flee. He was killed when troops returned fire. Next to his body, soldiers found two Kalashnikov rifles and an Uzi submachine gun. Sappers later blew up the bomb factory.
Elsewhere in the West Bank, security forces arrested 18 Palestinian fugitives affiliated with Hamas, Fatah Tanzim and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The arrests were carried out in Ramallah and surrounding environs, Hebron and Nablus.
On Tuesday night, a mortar shell fired by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip landed near the northern Gaza security fence. No one was wounded and no damage was reported.