Israeli tank blows up leading militant - Guardian, UK
- Israeli tank blows up leading militant
Suzanne Goldenberg in Jerusalem
Thursday May 23, 2002
Israel assassinated the most powerful militia
commander in the West Bank yesterday, firing five tank
shells on a cemetery in a refugee camp to blow up the
leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.
Mahmoud Titi, 30, was the guiding force behind the
military offshoot of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement,
which emerged this year as one of the most
devastatingly efficient militia organisations,
carrying out a wave of shootings and suicide bombings.
Titi was killed along with two other fighters in the
graveyard of the Balata refugee camp, near Nablus. The
camp is the birthplace of the Al Aqsa Martyrs'
Brigades, and reasserted itself as a stronghold of
militancy earlier this year when the group adopted the
tactics of Islamist groups such as Hamas and Islamic
Jihad. It launched attacks inside Israel and suicide
bombings - once seen as taboo by Fatah.
Titi was pivotal to that decision, claiming that the
Israeli army's invasion of the Balata refugee camp
last March gave the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades every
right to retaliate.
Titi's home was destroyed in the invasion. He told the
Guardian at the time: "This makes us more determined
to confront Israel and to fight them. Now they have
demolished my home, I have every reason to attack
"They believe demolishing my house will destroy my
morale, but it is doing the opposite. The more
pressure that is put on us, the stronger the explosion
Titi's assassination, carried out from a hill above
the camp, represents a devastating blow to the
militia, eliminating its most seasoned commander.
Despite that loss of capacity, it is bound to result
in fierce Palestinian retaliation. As night fell,
scores of Palestinians gathered by Titi's mutilated
corpse, vowing revenge.
Until April, Titi was the chief of operations for the
Al Aqsa Brigades, but he rose to the rank of commander
when Israel arrested the group's leader, Nasser Awais,
in a village in the Jordan valley.
In a statement on the assassination yesterday, the
Israeli army said Titi was behind a string of attacks,
including the shootings at a batmitzvah party in
January which killed six, and one in a Tel Aviv
restaurant in March in which three Israelis were
As operations chief for Al Aqsa, Titi was responsible
for building up an armed organisation that was barely
18 months old. He raised units to procure weapons,
make bombs, and pass telephone messages, using code to
evade Israeli listening devices and Palestinian
· Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, brought a
rebellious parliamentary coalition to its knees
yesterday, pushing through a sweeping package of
Israel's parliament, voted 65 to 26 in favour of tax
increases and cuts in family allowance that had been
bitterly opposed by the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United
Torah Judaism parties.
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