Special Report: Who were the four suicide bombers? New revelations
Palestine-Israel, Special Report, 9/25/1997
The four Palestinians, or at least two of them, whom Israel declared as the perpetrators of the two suicide bomb attacks in West Jerusalem on July 30 and September 4 may have been killed in a clash with Israeli troops but not in any of the suicide blasts. Photos of at least two of the four that were shot after their death and aired on Israel television Wednesday night had shed a huge cloud of doubt on Israel's official version. The two photos were so clear that any person could have identified the two Palestinians, and thus Israel had no reason to wait for almost a month until it published their names.
The photos did not show mutilated parts of faces that could have made identifying the two impossible. On the contrary, they were clean shots, in terms of maintaining the basic structure and appearance of the faces. Israel has had records of the four Palestinians as early as in 1995. It had demanded their arrest by the Palestinian National Authority and once they were detained in a Nablus prison, they managed to escape and apparently sought refuge in their village of Assira Ash-Shamaliya, north of Nablus.
Israel's "prestigious" security service, known as Shin Bet, has made enormous efforts to solve the mystery of the two suicide bombings. Therefore, having those photos at their disposal and not being able to identify at least two of the alleged perpetrators is hard to believe. This has aroused suspicions that the real perpetrators of the two suicide bombings are still on the run and Israel is still looking for them, but without admitting this. The fact that Israeli Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu rushed and announced parts of the classified investigation of the case, though the Shin Bet had sought and obtained a court order banning any publication of those details, had placed Shin Bet and its officers under enormous pressures, mainly that part that is relevant to the effectiveness of continuing the investigation without jeopardizing their chances of untying more of these mysteriours knots.
Villagers in Assira had testified of numerous raids by Israeli soldiers on their village. Search campaigns, arrests, interrogations and rounding up were part of the measures the Israeli army resorted to during those raids on the village and there is room to assume that the four, or some of them, had been killed in one of those encounters. The fact that their death was not announced at the time could be seen as related to Israeli investigators wishing to keep the lid closed on this Hamas cell hoping to reach more cell members. But when the news was broken by the local press in the PNA about the extensive manhunt campaign the Israeli army has had in the village of Assira Ash-Shamaliya since last Sunday, Israel had no other way out of the fiasco but to declare the four, or half of them, who were killed in a direct encounter with the army, as being those who blew themselves up in the Mahaneh Yehuda market on July 30 and in Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall on September 4.
The uncle of Tewfiq Yassin, one of the four whose names were published by Israel, told foreign television crews that sneaked into the village on Wednesday that even after the names were published by the Israeli press, Israeli Shin Bet agents and soldiers came to the house of Tewfiq and asked his mother where he was. The mother reportedly told them: "How come you are looking for my son. You just announced that he was killed in the suicide attack and now you are looking for him." That Shin Bet officers did not know of Tewfiq's death is possible, but what is more likely is that one day, some if not all the four whose names were published as the suicide bombers may return to life and tell the "story of their death!"
Back in July, the PNA had managed to uncover a cell of Israeli Shin Bet collaborators who were operating inside the village of Assira Ash-Shamaliya and disguised as members of the "Force 17" the special presidential guard of PNA President Yasser Arafat. Colonel Jihad Massimi of the PNA and a number of Palestinian policemen were later arrested by Israel, which at the time tried to undermine their effort which put at risk the Shin Bet cell that operated in the village. Eventually the Shin Bet cell activities came to an end with the arrest of the Palestinian collaborators and the start of their trial before a Palestinian court. They all were charged with collaboration with Israel, abduction and torture.
According to reports at the time, Massimi's force was involved in arrests of a collaboratoršs network which operated in the village of Assira Ash-Shamaliya in the north of the West Bank. Press reports spoke of the members as former Shin Bet collaborators who were recruited into Force 17 in order to capture Hamas members who had escaped from the Nablus prison. Those who escaped were none ither thanTewfiq Yassin, Yousef Shouli and Muawiya Jarar'a, three of the four alleged suicide strikers.
It was only after many complaints were received by villagers of the brutal methods used by the network members in their village that the Palestinian National Authority decided to put them under surveillance that led to uncovering that they had in fact returned to their former job as collaborators with the Israeli authorities. The speculation is that those collaborators might have either killed the four or led Israeli troops to their hideouts. But nothing is final.
Attorney Shawki Issa, of the Palestinian Association to Protect Human Rights and the Environment, spoke of complaints he received from village residents about the "provocative acts of a group of collaborators, who are creating an atmosphere of terrorism. Upon their arrest we were notified that they had been guided by their actions to serve the Israeli GSS, and were recruited by a former village resident, known as a collaborator and living within the autonomy."
Dr. Ahmad Tibi, special advisor to Israeli affairs to PNA President Yasser Arafat, also raised suspicion of Israel's version of the latest developments. As a doctor, he said, I would like to take a look at the DNA test reports for all four Palestinians before we take Israel's story for granted.
More details on the uncovering of Hamas cell
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