Arafat's Force 17 is guarding Hamas bomb lab
- Arafat's Force 17 is guarding Hamas bomb lab
By Amos Harel Ha'aretz 27 July 2001
Force 17, the presidential guard of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser
Arafat, is guarding a Hamas explosives laboratory in Nablus, according to
reliable information received by the security establishment.
Hamas activists in Nablus have been responsible for many suicide bombings,
bombs and car bombs in Israel in recent months. Most were put together at
the lab in Nablus, and the rest were prepared in one or two other labs used
by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Jenin.
Five suicide bombers killed by detonating themselves in Israel were sent
from Nablus, most of them theology students from the local An-Najah
university. At least five Hamas activists from Nablus and the region were
killed in retaliation by Israeli forces. Several operatives of the Fatah and
the Islamic Jihad, some of whom were in touch with Hamas activists, were
also killed by the IDF and the Shin Bet security service or in "work
accidents" when putting together explosive devices.
On Wednesday the IDF used missiles to kill Saleh Darwazeh, a senior Hamas
activist from Nablus. Hamas said he was a politician and not part of the
military wing but the Shin Bet and the IDF assert that he was heavily
involved in preparing the suicide bombings. One security source even said it
was Darwazeh who ran the operation of the laboratory.
Since the beginning of the October Intifada, many activists of different
terrorist organizations have worked together. Apparently, unofficial
cross-organization ties are usually formed in prison cells, not only between
the inmates but also between them and their captors.
In September 2000 more than 50 Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists were being
held at the Juneid prison in Nablus. The PA released most of them when the
conflict with Israel started in October. The released prisoners renewed
their terrorist activities in squads of between seven and ten people. Some
made use of previous acquaintances and hired the services of Force 17
guards - their former jailers - to secure Hamas armories as well as the
After the bombing at the nightclub in Tel Aviv on July 1st (by suicide
bomber Said Hutari, who was prepared for the mission by Hamas activists from
Nablus and Qalqilya), prominent political Hamas activists such as Hamed
Bitawi and Jamal Mansur were seen in Nablus surrounded by armed guards to
protect them against possible Israeli attacks. Israel has recently found
that Hamas had made deals with arms dealers in Nablus and Hebron to supply
them with weapons.