Senior bombmaker killed in Nablus

IDF: Hizbullah, Iran and Islamic Jihad stepping up involvement in West Bank terror

idf in nablus 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
idf in nablus 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
In a widespread operation waged against the Islamic Jihad and Fatah Tanzim in Nablus on Monday, security forces killed one senior fugitive and arrested seven involved in planning imminent attacks in Israel and manufacturing bombs, the army said. Since the recent Hamas victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, Hizbullah and Iran, as well as the Islamic Jihad echelon in Damascus, have stepped up their support, increased funds and issued orders to cell members operating in the Nablus region, a senior IDF commander said. "In recent weeks we have seen a significant increase in attempts by terror organizations operating in the area to launch attacks inside Israel. Hizbullah and Iran and the Islamic Jihad echelon in Damascus Syria have stepped up their efforts, supplying increased funds and instructions to launch attacks," Col. Yuval Bazak, the Samaria district commander told The Jerusalem Post. Nablus, always considered one of the hotbeds of terror, has become the main center for manufacturing explosive belts and bombs to be used in terror attacks in Israel in recent months. Some of the belts have made their way to other terror cells operating elsewhere in the West Bank, details released by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the army on Monday revealed. The information demonstrated the closed-knit ties and cooperation that exists between the two terror groups, aimed at strengthening and improving their capabilities to launch attacks against Israeli targets. Late Sunday night in the old-city quarters of Nablus, troops engaged in a gun battle and subsequently killed Ahmed Abu Shrah, 30, a senior Tanzim fugitive and known bomb and explosives expert, according to the IDF. Following the gun battle, soldiers pursued other fugitives accompanying Shrah, who fled to a nearby building, Bazak said. Soldiers surrounded the building and the fugitives surrendered, he added. Abu Shrah, who the army contents was one of the masterminds of the suicide bomb attack near the old bus station in Tel Aviv in January this year. Considered an expert bomb maker who excelled in manufacturing bomb belts, he received orders from the Islamic Jihad headquarters in Damascus, Syria. Three fugitives have been killed and nine arrested since Operation Northern Lights began on Saturday in Nablus and the adjacent Balata refugee camp. Security forces have also confiscated an array of weapons including three M16 rifles and a handgun. In the past three days, soldiers have encountered fierce resistance, engaged in gun battles with armed fugitives and have come away unscathed from several bomb attacks, the army said. In addition, security forces have with sporadic clashes involving Palestinian mobs throwing stones and firebombs at them. Ahmed Adaisha Marshud, 22, head of the Islamic Jihad in Nablus, who masterminded a number of suicide-bomb attacks in the past, and was in the midst of planning further bomb attacks to be carried out in Israel in the coming days, was one of seven fugitives arrested late Sunday night and early Monday. Marshud, a resident of the refugee camp, was believed to be the planner of numerous terror attacks, including the suicide bombing at the old bus station in Tel Aviv on January 19 this year in which 30 civilians were wounded. He was also responsible for detonating a bomb near an IDF jeep in Nablus last November, according to the army, moderately wounding the deputy paratrooper company commander operating in the city. Marshud planned the attempted infiltration in Har Bracha in January this year that was thwarted by security forces, the IDF said. Security officials believe that Mashud received instructions and orders from Islamic Jihad operatives in the Gaza Strip as well as from the organization's headquarters in Damascus. Other fugitives arrested in the raid include Ibrahim Abu Dara'a, 19, a member of the Islamic Jihad who was sent by Mashud in January to infiltrate Har Bracha. Kassam Zaban, 20, and Mahmoud Matamda, 30, both members of the Fatah Tanzim were involved in detonating bombs near soldiers operating in the Nablus area. Both operated under instructions received from Abu Shrah. Iyad Masimi, 28, a member of Fatah Tanzim and an expert bomb maker was also involved in manufacturing bomb belts to be used in future attacks in Israel. The bomb belt worn by the suicide bomber that blew up in Tel Aviv in January this year, the IDF believes, was made by Masimi. Fatah Tanzim member Ahmed Hosni Halil, 20, involved in a number of bomb attacks against IDF units operating in Nablus in recent years, was in the midst of planning a suicide bomb attack to be carried out in Israel in the near future when he was caught, the army said. Elsewhere in the region on Monday, two Palestinians, a male and female, were wounded by IDF gunfire after soldiers spotted the former throwing a firebomb at an Israeli bus on Road 60 near the El Fawar camp south of Hebron. The girl who stood next to the youth was also hit. Both were treated at the site and taken to hospital in Jerusalem. In the morning, security forces arrested six Palestinian fugitives affiliated with Islamic Jihad and Fatah in raids in Kabbatiyah, south of Jenin, Bani Naim, southeast of Hebron, Tsurif, southwest of Bethlehem and the Al Azza refugee camp in Bethlehem. In the Gaza Strip, IDF artillery units shelled unpopulated areas in northern Gaza in an attempt to prevent Kassam rockets from being fired at Israel, after two rockets were fired at the western Negev. No one was wounded and no damage reported.