(Communicated by the IDF Spokesman)

In a joint IDF, ISA and Israel Police arrest operation today, May 14, 2006, in the village of Kabatiya, south of Jenin, IDF forces encircled the structure in which several Islamic Jihad terrorists were hiding. An exchange of fire ensued between the forces and the wanted men, five of the gunmen were killed. Among them was Elias Ashkar, the most wanted Islamic Jihad terrorist in the West Bank, who was responsible for almost all the terror attacks carried out inside Israel in the last year, including the most recent terror attack in Tel Aviv on April 17th, in which the number of Israelis killed rose today to 11.

Ashkar was currently involved in planning a suicide bombing inside Israel.

Background Information

(Communicated by Israeli security sources)

Elias Ashkar, the highest ranking Islamic Jihad terrorist in northern Samaria, was involved in all terror attacks the organization has carried out against Israel in the past year, and was recently planning a new terror attack.

In a joint IDF and ISA activity in the village of Qabatiya yesterday, May 14, 2006, top Islamic Jihad terrorist Elias Ashkar was killed while exchanging fire with IDF forces which had come to arrest him.

Elias Hiri Ashkar, a resident of the village of Baka A-Sharkia near Tulkarm, has been wanted by security forces for several years, and in the past months had become one of the main targets of the IDF’s arrest operations in northern Samaria.

Ashkar was deeply involved in the manufacturing of explosive belts and bags used in all terror attacks carried out by the Islamic Jihad in the past year: the suicide bombing at the Stage nightclub in Tel Aviv in February 2005, in which 4 Israelis were killed and 52 were injured; two suicide bombings in Netanya in July and December of 2005, in which 10 Israeli civilians were killed and 149 were injured; a suicide bombing in Hadera on October 2005, in which 5 Israeli civilians were killed and 28 were injured.

Ashkar was directly responsible for the suicide bombing in the old central bus station in Tel Aviv on April 17, 2006, in which 11 Israeli civilians were killed and 66 were injured. Ashkar was responsible for dispatching the bomber, Sammer Hamad, to his target, for the construction of the bomb used by Hamad and for the preparation of Hamad for the attack. The funding and directives for the attack were supplied directly by the Islamic Jihad headquarters in Syria.

Ashkar was involved in the planning of many more terror attacks against Israel which were thwarted by security forces in the past weeks:

On March 21, 2006, security forces caught a bomber with an explosive bag constructed by Ashkar’s infrastructure on the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road, only just managing to thwart a suicide bombing inside Israel. Investigation of several members of the terror cell involved and a number of Ashkar’s men who were arrested following the attempted attack revealed that Ashkar was planning many more terror attacks against Israelis in the near future. Ashkar had marked several targets for attacks, among them bus stations, busy bus lines and crowded markets.

Ashkar’s infrastructure was also planning to carry out attacks against civilians by detonating bombs remotely via cell phone technology. This would be done with the assistance of various collaborators, some of them Palestinians who are staying in Israel illegally and are thus in a prime position to carry out attacks.
Ashkar was also involved in a plan to launch a car bomb against military targets in northern Samaria.

Finally, Ashkar was involved in recruiting terrorists into the organization and made efforts to provide them with weaponry and explosives in order to enable them to attack Israeli targets.
Without the funding of the Islamic Jihad headquarters in Syria, most of this terror activity could not have been possible. These funds are the driving force behind all of the organization’s activities and are used to purchase weaponry and explosives, to recruit collaborators and to pay off the bombers themselves.