A special police force arrested a senior Hamas
operative in the West Bank village of Tsurif Tuesday night.
According to Israel Radio, security forces had wanted the man for more than a decade.
Security forces said the man, Ibrahim Ranimat, was involved in a series of deadly terror attacks. Among these were the bombing in the Apropos Restaurant in Tel Aviv
in 1997 in which three Israelis were killed, the kidnapping and murder of soldier Sharon Edri, and the shooting attack in which the senior medical officer of the Judea Brigade was murdered along with a medic who was with him in his car.
Ranimat was also suspected of involvement in additional attacks throughout Israel.
Security forces also arrested a 43-year-old Palestinian man with ties to Hamas for the murder of a British yeshiva student in the Old City of Jerusalem
, police said Tuesday.
The assailant, Abed al-Muaz Juaba, of the West Bank city of Hebron
, allegedly stabbed British yeshiva student Shmuel Mett, 21, to death and seriously wounded his classmate, New York-born Sammy Weissbard, in Jerusalem's Old City on August 24.
Police said that Juaba, who was apprehended on Saturday, had confessed to the murder and reenacted the crime for investigators.
A court gag order that had been in place on the case was lifted Tuesday afternoon.
Police said that the suspect, a shoemaker by profession, is a religious man and father of two with ties to Hamas.
He told police investigators that he decided to murder an Israeli after a Jewish extremist threw a pig head into a Jaffa mosque in August, and because of the drawing of a pig on the wall of a Hebron mosque, the police said.
The suspect told interrogators that he decided to carry out the attack near the El Aksa mosque in Jerusalem in order to "protect the Muslim religion."
On the day of the attack, the suspect was believed to have set out from his Hebron house via public transportation, entering Jerusalem near Abu Dis
in an area where the security barrier was not completed.
After having a cup of coffee near the Damascus Gate, Juaba bought a butcher's knife and entered a nearby mosque for prayer before scouting the area for his victims.
Near the Jaffa Gate, Juaba encountered Mett, who had been studying in Israel for two years and was engaged to be married to a British girl in three months.
Mett and his first cousin, both from Golders Green
, London, were roommates at Jerusalem's Mir Yeshiva.
The two were making their way back to their yeshiva from the Western Wall on the night of the attack, when they were assaulted on the edge of the Arab
market by Juaba, who stabbed them both in the stomach with the 30cm.-long knife, the police said.
A third yeshiva student narrowly avoided being stabbed, and ran away.
Weissbard, 20, managed to make his way to a nearby police station to raise the alarm. Police then discovered Mett lying on the ground just inside the Arab market.
Despite the intense efforts of paramedics on the scene to resuscitate him, Mett died on the operating table in the intensive care unit of Hadassah
University Hospital at Ein Karem
. He never regained
After the attack, Juaba allegedly hurled the knife to the ground and fled in the direction of Damascus Gate, police said. When he noticed security officials, who had closed off the exits to the Old City, scouring the area, he entered a nearby mosque where he washed the blood off of his hands and prayed until police left the area. After the gates to the Old City were reopened he left the area, and returned to the West Bank.
The attack was caught on police surveillance cameras positioned in the Old City, aiding security officials in their search for the assailant.
Jerusalem police chief Ilan Franco said Tuesday that the suspect's age, his family status, and the fact that he had no past criminal record prolonged the month and a half long police investigation.
The incident, which took place just a day after Israel completed its pullout from the Gaza Strip
and four West Bank settlements, was the first deadly attack in the Old City of Jerusalem in three years.
The suspected murderer was remanded in custody for ten days Tuesday by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court.
He told reporters outside the courtroom that he had no regrets for the murder, and that he would repeat his action again if he could.