18 April 2002

Information from the Questioning of Salim Haja, senior Hamas operative in Judea and Samaria

(Communicated by Israel security sources)

Salim Haja, a senior Hamas operative in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) who arrested by the IDF in the course of Operation Defensive Shield, was personally involved in suicide attacks in Israel in which many civilians were killed.

Salim Haja is around 30 years of age, a resident of the village of Burka, and a student of religious studies at Al Najah University in Nablus. He was arrested in the past by Israel for terrorist activities and was arrested by the IDF during Operation Defensive Shield while he was at the Central Command of the Preventive Security Service at Beituniya.

During his questioning he admitted to being a senior Hamas military operative and to having been directly involved in suicide attacks in Israel in which many Israelis were killed. He was also the operational liaison between the organization’s infrastructure in Samaria and its infrastructure in Ramallah, and as such carried out a wide range of terrorist activities.

Below are noteworthy details of the characteristics of his activities, as he described in his questioning:

Constructing an explosives laboratory in Nablus: Salim rented an apartment in Nablus for use by the Hamas organization as a terrorist laboratory. In the apartment they carried out experiments with explosives, preparing bombs containing metal balls, and detonating bombs by means of mobile telephones. They used this apartment for a number of months until there was a work accident that brought their work there to a halt.

Operations of the Hamas military wing in Nablus: Salim gave details about the structure of the military wing in Nablus, names of the operatives and the establishment of an infrastructure of terrorists comprised of small, separate and compartmentalized cells, where only the cell leaders were in contact with the main activists. He gave a list of cell leaders and the military operations of each cell.

Instructions for carrying out attacks were received from the leaders of the Hamas organization aboard and in the West Bank. As part of their terrorist activities, they made use of mobile telephone text messages, avoided talking on mobile telephones, used code names and sent messages by means of notes concealed in hidden places.

Suicide Bombing in Mehola (22 Dec 2000): Salim recruited Hashem Najar, who carried out the suicide attack in Mehola, convinced him to carry out the mission and when he agreed, filmed him the day before the attack. After this he handed him over to another terrorist operative who dispatched him to carry out the attack, which resulted in two soldiers being killed and thirteen others injured.

Acquisition of arms and weapons: As part of his activities, Salim was involved in the acquisition of arms and weapons for Hamas armed operations. He also distributed the weapons to the terrorist operatives.

Suicide attack in Nahariya (9 Sep 2001): Salim provided details (of which he had become aware retrospectively) on operatives in the organization who were involved in preparing the suicide attack, and details of the bomb used by the attacker.

Suicide attack at Sbarro (9 Aug 2001): Salim took part in preparing the attack at the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem. He provided the explosive used to make up the bomb for the suicide attacker. As a result of the attack on the restaurant, 15 Israeli citizens were killed and 107 injured. The explosives were transported by a taxi parcel delivery service within the West bank.

Activities in the area of Jenin: About six months ago Salim volunteered to go to the Jenin area to help reinforce the Hamas operatives in this area. He met with terrorists, brought explosives and began to make bombs.

Suicide bombing on a bus in Haifa (2 Dec 2001): Salim was personally involved in planning and implementation of the suicide attack on a bus in Haifa on December 2, 2001. He located and recruited a young man who worked on a building site in Haifa who agreed to transport the suicide bomber to carry out the attack, coordinated and transported the explosive belt given to the suicide bomber, personally dressed him in the belt and instructed him on how to operate it. Before carrying out the attack the bomber shaved off his beard and moustache and received plain glass spectacles so as to give him a western appearance. On the day of the attack the suicide bomber was driven to Um el Fahm and from there to Haifa, where he carried out the attack and killed fifteen Israelis.

Intended attack in the Gilboa region: About six months ago Salim, together with others, went to the Gilboa region and reconnoitered the area with binoculars in order to study the terrain in preparation for an infiltration attack into one of the Israeli communities in the region. Because of the death of the father of one of the terrorists, planning of the attack was postponed.

Knowledge of additional attacks in Israel: Through his contacts with various Hamas operatives, Salim acquired knowledge of a number of attacks carried out in Israel: an attack in Tel Aviv, an explosion in a taxi on the Wadi Ara highway, a bomb planted in a beer can in Jerusalem, a suicide attack at French Hill in Jerusalem. He was also aware of a number of attacks in which the arch-terrorist Mahmoud Abu Hanoud (deceased) was involved.

The prisoner Salim Haja emerges as ones of the most senior of the terrorists wanted by the security forces, directly responsible for carrying out suicide attacks in Israel in which dozens of Israelis were killed. His capture and arrest during Operation Defensive Shield has prevented his continued involvement in planning and directing attacks.