SPECIAL REPORT: Classified information on suicide bombers revealed
Regional, Special Report, 9/12/1997
"We have precise information on who the perpetrators of the suicide bomb attacks are and Israel has the same information but it has decided to suppress its publication in order to serve its own political goals," said Dr. Ahmad Tibi, special advisor on Israeli affairs to Palestinian National Authority President Yasser Arafat. Tibi, who spoke outside the Palestinian Legislative Council minutes after the meeting between Arafat and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, refused to go into details but stressed that the Israeli military censorship has withheld all publication pertinent to the investigation in the last two suicide bomb attacks in West Jerusalem.
Israeli police, meanwhile, remained on a maximum state of alert as "hot warnings" continue to flow into the General Security Services operations' room, indicating that a suicide bomb attack is very likely to take place inside the largest shopping mall of Malha in West Jerusalem on Sunday. Those warnings followed the successful arrest by Israeli police last Sunday of two Palestinians who had explosives ready to detonate in their car as they were heading to the Malha shopping mall, it was learned. The two Palestinians were arrested after an intensive investigation by Israel's General Security Services which followed the Ben Yehuda blast last week.
Israeli sources confirmed that immediately after the Ben Yehuda blast, the Israeli police arrested two accomplices of the three suicide bombers, whose arrest led to the uncovering of the two Palestinians who planned to blow themselves up at the shopping mall.
So far, Israel has failed to determine who the three bombers were but they are strongly believed to have come from abroad. Israeli intelligence concludes that the three had arrived in Israel disguised as tourists. At least one of the bombs they had on them was smuggled from abroad and was made of RDX explosives that are hard to detect by x-ray machines. The two other devices, Israeli intelligence believe, were prepared in a Hamas "bomb factory" which the PNA had discovered in the town of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, a few weeks ago.
Preliminary investigation into the Ben Yehuda bombing had apparently led Israel to track the bombers back to Lebanon. A decision was immediately taken by the top brass in Israel to take one of the plans out of the drawer and launch the failed attack on Ansariyah village in Lebanon. Eleven Israeli soldiers of a special naval unit were killed and four others wounded in the ill-fated landing last week.
The original plan was drafted some months ago to try and abduct a leading Hizbullah figure. The goal of the abduction, sources believe, was to give Israel better cards in negotiating with Hizbullah, and through it with Iran, the whereabouts of Israeli navigator Ron Arad whose plane was shot down in Lebanon in the 80s and since then has been presumed missing in action.
However, after the triple blast in Ben Yehuda and the arrest of the two accomplices, it became more evident to Israel that the perpetrators had come from Lebanon, though through a third country, possibly a European one.
Several months ago, an agreement was reached between Hizbullah's Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas representative and head of its military wing in Lebanon, Mustafa Liddawi, by which Hamas would resume its suicide attacks on Israeli targets in return for logistical and training assistance that Hizbullah is ready to give. In that meeting, a senior official of Ahmad Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command was present. That official, Talal Naji who is Jibril's deputy, pledge to offer training camps that his front has in Lebanon for Hamas members to have their military training.
PNA officials insist that the two bombing attacks in West Jerusalem originated abroad and blamed them exclusively on Israel. The fact that the perpetrators of those attacks had possibly received logistic help from Palestinians in the PNA areas or in the occupied territories does not exempt Israel from its overall responsibility for the two attacks," said a senior Palestinian security source. The source reiterated remarks made by Arafat some weeks ago in which he said he would be happy to take care of Israeli security even in West Jerusalem should Israel officially ask him to do so.
So far, it is not clear if Secretary Albright had been convinced by the Palestinian intelligence reports on the perpetrators of the two attacks but from the way things developed on Friday, observers could easily conclude that her talks with Palestinian President Arafat were on the verge of collapse. The Palestinian side was disappointed as Albright arrived for her second meeting with Arafat without any concrete promise on behalf of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu that he would ease the closure or release some of the tax revenues that Israel held back from the PNA after the July 30th bomb attack in Mahaneh Yehuda market in West Jerusalem.
After their meeting, Albright and Arafat spoke briefly to reporters and both agreed they had a constructive meeting but nothing more than that. Arafat later refused to speak to the press and so did his media advisor Nabil Abu Rudeineh. Only Yasser Abed Rabbou, PNA minister of information and culture, gave a brief statement afterwards saying that the good statements made by Albright on settlements, closure, holding back PNA money and honouring the interim agreements are now waiting for action. "We will have to wait and see what steps the US Administration is ready to take to make sure that those statements are interpreted into action," he said.
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