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Israel blames Syria after 16 killed in suicide attacks * Be'er Sheva bus bombers were part of Hamas cell in Hebron

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    Last Update: 01/09/2004 10:25 Israel blames Syria after 16 killed in suicide attacks http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/472097.html By Haaretz Staff Israel
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2004
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      Last Update: 01/09/2004 10:25

      Israel blames Syria after 16 killed in suicide attacks
      http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/472097.html
      By Haaretz Staff



      Israel blamed Syria for the double suicide bombing in Be'er Sheva on
      Tuesday afternoon that killed 16 people, saying that it is still supporting
      terrorist organizations in the country.



      A senior military official told Haaretz that the Syrians continue to
      sponsor terror organizations operating out of Damascus, providing both
      logistical and financial backing.

      A high-placed source said, "it is not the PR departments of these
      organizations sitting in Damascus. It is their operational commands."

      In October 2003, Israel Air Force warplanes struck targets close to
      Damascus several days after a suicide bomber killed more than 20 people in
      a Haifa restaurant. Israel at the time blamed Syria for its support for
      Islamic Jihad, which had dispatched the female bomber.

      A 3-year-old boy was among those killed Tuesday, when two suicide bombers
      blew themselves up almost simultaneously on buses in the southern city;
      about 100 other people were wounded.

      Hamas claimed the attacks, the first suicide bombings inside Israel in five
      months.

      Of those killed in the attacks, 12 have been identified.

      They are: Karin Malka, 23; Emanuel Yosefov, 28; Tekala Tiro'aynt, 33;
      Shoshana Amos, 50; Tamara Debrashivili, 70; three-year-old Aviel Atash;
      Denise Hadad, 40; Maria Sokolov; Vitaly Brodski, 52; Rosita Leman, 45;
      Larisa Gomanenko, 48; and Tatiyana Korotchenko, 49.

      Karin Malka will be laid to rest at 5:30 P.M. at the new cemetery in Be'er
      Sheva.

      In response to the attack, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister
      Shaul Mofaz decided in a Tuesday night meeting with top security officials,
      security officials will launch a military offensive in the West Bank city
      of Hebron, the home of Be'er Sheva suicide bombers Ahmed Kawasma and Nisim
      Jabri.

      Following the attack, Hebron was placed under closure, and Israel Defense
      Forces soldiers arrested 12 Palestinians in the city overnight. Shortly
      after the bombing, IDF troops in the West Bank raided the bombers' homes.

      Security forces were also to bolster security along the seam line between
      the southern Hebron Hills and the Negev, the area which the suicide bombers
      apparently passed on their way to carrying out the attack.

      In addition, security forces have imposed a full closure on the Gaza Strip
      in the wake of Tuesday's attempt by a Palestinian to enter the Erez
      Crossing carrying an explosives device.

      Palestinian workers have also been banned from working in Israel or in the
      Erez industrial zone until further notice. Assassinations of senior Hamas
      leaders in the Gaza Strip are also expected to increase.

      The initial investigation of the Be'er Sheva attack showed that both buses
      departed from the central bus station in the city, and two suicide
      bombers - one on each bus - blew themselves up at 2:50 P.M., about 100
      meters apart.

      "I heard a blast and I started to run to the site. Within seconds there was
      another explosion," said Gil Yehezekel, the owner of a business close to
      the location of the attack.

      "When I got there, there were people on the floor, wounded people, limbs
      torn off," he said. "The police and ambulances arrived in seconds."

      The driver of the second bus that blew up, Yaakov Cohen, said that when he
      saw the bus ahead of his explode in a ball of flame he had a premonition
      his own vehicle would soon be next.

      "I saw the first explosion and thought, my God, I've got to get out of
      here. I drove [my bus] about 10 meters and then opened the doors," he said
      from his hospital bed, where he was being treated for leg wounds.

      "I believe that between 10 to 15 people got off my bus. Suddenly I heard a
      huge explosion. I can't explain it but it was almost as if I knew it was
      going to happen. It was terrible, terrible ... I don't want to describe
      what I saw."

      Cohen said there had been 20 to 30 people still waiting to leave his
      vehicle when the bomb went off, and that none of the passengers who boarded
      his bus earlier had looked suspicious.

      "Believe me, I look and check," Cohen said. "It is very hard to identify a
      bomber ... I don't know how anyone can."

      Sharon vowed in the wake of the attacks that "the fight against terror will
      continue with full strength." Sharon will continue with the disengagement
      plan, his aides said.

      The Palestinian Authority condemned "any attacks that target civilians,
      whether Israelis or Palestinian," Palestinian Minister Saeb Erekat said.
      The United States and European Union also condemned the attack.

      In the Gaza Strip, Muslim leaders praised the "heroic operation" over
      mosque loudspeakers.

      About 20,000 Hamas supporters sang and threw candy in the streets of Gaza
      City in celebration of the bombings and their casualties.

      Hamas claimed responsibility through a leaflet that surfaced in Hebron, 50
      km from Be'er Sheva, saying the attacks were meant to avenge Israel's
      assassination of its two top leaders in helicopter missile strikes in March
      and April.

      "This is but one of a series of responses in which the Iz a Din al-Kassam
      Brigades have vowed to carry out in response to the martyrdom of the
      leaders of our movement, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi," it
      said.

      "Revenge is so sweet," said one celebrator, hoisting high a poster of
      Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi.

      The IDF believes that the military wing of Hamas in Hebron is behind the
      attack.

      Hamas supporters said they were pleased the group's repeated attempts to
      launch attacks against the Jewish state had finally caused Israeli
      casualties.

      "Our religion orders us to respond in kind to aggression against us. You
      [Israeli people] are the ones who choose your leaders and choose to be
      their shields. Therefore your shields will suffer more blows," the leaflet
      said.

      "This is a gift to the newcomers who arrived recently to our land," it
      added in a reference to recent wave of Jewish immigration to Israel. "We
      say to you: 'This is your fate, so wait.'"

      Following the blasts, the police bolstered the number of officers across
      the country. There had apparently been no alert that an attack was
      imminent.

      Palestinian militants haven't carried out a suicide bombing inside Israel
      since March 14, when 11 people were killed in the port city of Ashdod.

      Earlier Tuesday, Israel Defense Forces soldiers caught a Palestinian man
      carrying an explosives belt as he tried to cross into Israel from the Gaza
      Strip.
      ********

      Last Update: 01/09/2004 09:04

      Be'er Sheva bus bombers were part of Hamas cell in Hebron
      http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/472101.html
      By Amos Harel and Arnon Regular, Haaretz Correspondents



      The current local head of the terror cell that dispatched the suicide
      bombers who carried out Tuesday's attack in Be'er Sheva was also
      responsible for the attempted attack at the Caffit Cafe in Jerusalem two
      months ago.



      The military wing of Hamas claimed responsibility in a leaflet that
      surfaced in Hebron, 50 km north of the southern Israeli city, saying the
      attacks were meant to avenge Israel's assassination of its two top leaders
      in helicopter missile strikes in March and April.

      "Our religion orders us to respond in kind to aggression against us," it
      said. "This is but one of a series of responses which the Iz a Din
      al-Kassam Brigades have vowed to carry out in response to the martyrdom of
      the leaders of our movement, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi."

      Muslim leaders in the Gaza Strip praised the double suicide attack over
      mosque loudspeakers, calling it a "heroic operation."

      In a new style, the leaflet, which called the attacks a "gift" to striking
      Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, used elements of psychological
      warfare directed to Israeli citizens.

      "You [Israelis] were mistaken if you thought that killing our leaders would
      lessen our determination," the leaflet said. "Your leaders have harmed our
      people. You are the ones who choose your leaders and choose to be their
      shields. Therefore your shields will suffer more blows.

      "This is a gift to the newcomers who recently arrived to our land," it
      added, in a reference to recent wave of Jewish immigration to Israel. "We
      say to you: This is your fate, so we advise you to reconsider."

      The two suicide bombers, Ahmed Kawasma and Nisim Jabri, had apparently
      known each other for several years, and coordinated the attacks almost
      completely.

      The two are members of the two most prominent clans in Hebron, the Kawasmas
      and the Jabris.

      Ahmed Kawasma owned an aluminum products store in Hebron, while Nisim Jabri
      is a construction worker and lives near Kiryat Arba. Jabri's close
      relatives, well-known Fatah members in Hebron, accused Hamas of
      brainwashing Jabri.

      A few hours after the Be'er Sheva attack, IDF forces raided the homes of
      the two suicide bombers and arrested several relatives. Kawama's home was
      destroyed overnight Tuesday.

      The terror cell that dispatched Kawasma and Jabri is headed by a relative
      of Kawasma, Imad Kawasma, head of the military wing of Hamas, Iz a-Din
      al-Qassam, in Hebron. He has been on the IDF's most-wanted list since the
      beginning of 2003. In recent months the IDF raided his family's home
      several times, but did not arrest him.

      The organization is very compartmentalized, which makes it difficult to
      apprehend its leaders. In contrast to terror cells in other cities in the
      West Bank, the Hebron cell, as well as the cell in Ramallah, usually avoids
      mistakes that reveal their whereabouts to Israeli forces. When they carry
      out a successful attack, their leaders go underground.

      Imad Kawasma is considered heir to the founders and heads of the Hebron
      terror cells, Abdullah Kawasma and Ahmed Badr, who were killed by the IDF
      last year.

      Hamas attacks over the past two years were all carried out by the Hebron Iz
      al-Din al-Qassam cell. In October 2003, more than 100 members of the
      Kawasma family and others were arrested in an attempt to put a stop to the
      activities of the cell, which have resulted in the deaths of over 80
      Israelis.

      While elsewhere in the West Bank the IDF has relatively good intelligence
      sources, they are more or less groping in the dark when it comes to Hebron.
      Last year, after a concerted effort, security forces managed to paralyze
      both Hamas and Islamic Jihad. With Tuesday's attack, the paralysis came to
      an end.

      Hamas in the Gaza Strip is trying to overcome its difficulty penetrating
      Israel. It is seeking alternative routes into Israel, among them tunnels in
      Rafah to Sinai and from there to the Negev.

      The attack in Be'er Sheva was apparently not coordinated with Hamas in the
      Strip. There apparently was also no connection between the Be'er Sheva
      attack and the attempted suicide bombing at the Erez checkpoint before dawn
      Tuesday.

      Earlier Tuesday, before the Be'er Sheva attack, Palestinian Authority
      officials said that the PA had issued an ultimatum to Hamas in the Gaza
      Strip to surrender the three Hamas members whom it accuses of an attempted
      assassination against the deputy commander of the PA's general intelligence
      in the Strip, Tareq Abu Rajab. PA sources say the three Hamas members have
      taken shelter in the Strip's Jabalya refugee camp.
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