Jerusalem, 4 August 2003

ISA arrests two Israeli Arabs responsible for escorting suicide bombers to their targets
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

The ISA and the Border Police have detained for questioning two men accused of escorting the suicide bombers of bus #6 at French Hill in Jerusalem on May 18, 2003 and bus #14 near the Klal Building in Jerusalem on June 11, 2003 to the attack sites. Twenty-three Israeli civilians and one foreign national were murdered and 125 civilians were injured in the two terror attacks. The two men admitted during their investigations that the June 11 terror attack had been planned for one month and was not perpetrated as a response to the attempted elimination of Hamas leader Abdul Aziz Rantisi.

On June 14, 2003 Samr Ahmed Atresh was detained for transporting Bassam Tahdori to French Hill where he blew himself up on bus #6, murdering seven people and wounding 20. Atresh, from Hebron and a resident of the Shuafat refugee camp holds a blue Israeli identity card, which he was able to obtain due to the law on family reunification, and was employed by a Beit Shemesh catering company.

Atresh admitted that he had been recruited by Hamas and that it was his responsibility to gather information on highly populated areas, and to purchase equipment to disguise the suicide bomber.

Atresh met Tahdori on May 17, 2003 and brought him to his home. On May 18 he attached the explosive belt to Tahdori and then disguised him as an observant Jew. Furthermore, Atresh admitted that he was planning to exploit his catering job by poisoning food, placing an explosive, or bringing a suicide bomber to an events hall.

On June 16, 2003 Omar Salah Muhammad Sharif was detained for transporting Maati Shavana to the Jerusalem’s Klal Building where he blew himself up on a #14 bus, killing 17 people and wounding 105. Sharif, 19, is a resident of Beit Hanina, holds a blue Israeli identity card, and is employed as a janitor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem’s Givat Ram campus and is a relation of Abdallah Qawasmeh, a terrorist leader in Hebron.

Sharif was recruited by the Hamas, which took advantage of the fact that he held a blue Israeli identity card, thus allowing him to travel freely. He was told to find out information on busy buses that Palestinians do not use and on the movements of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. On June 11, Sharif met the suicide bomber who was already armed with an explosive belt. Sharif saw to it that he was dressed as an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man. That the date of the attack had been decided on before the attempt on Rantisi (on June 10), confirms the fact that this terror bombing was not a response to it.

Sharif further admitted that he had been planning to kidnap Israelis after making contact with them through the Internet. Sharif added that he had planned a long list of possible terror attacks including a car bomb on the Tel Aviv promenade, and bombing a cafeteria at Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus where he worked.

The military wing of Hamas in Hebron, headed by Abdallah Qawasmeh took responsibility for both terror attacks. Qawasmeh was eliminated on June 21, 2003 and was responsible for murdering 35 Israeli citizens and wounding 145. He was active in planning many terror attacks.

In addition, Hamas has been involved in gathering information on Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and other senior Israeli officials with the intention of kidnapping or assassinating them. The plans were rejected due to technical problems. The terror cell also planned to kidnap Israelis in order to use them as bargaining chips for the release of Palestinian terrorists.

These incidents continue to show that the terrorist organizations are able to use Israeli Arabs, who hold regular blue Israeli identity cards, to perpetrate terror attacks and murder Israeli civilians. It is especially problematic as many of these cards are issued for humanitarian reasons in the framework of family unification. In addition, the terrorist organizations frequently cynically exploit Jewish tradition and laws by disguising the bombers as Orthodox Jews.