TEL AVIV (Oct. 8)
Four members of a terrorist gang which had been operating in the Jerusalem hills for nearly two years were killed and a fifth wounded in a shoot-out with members of the special border police anti-terrorist unit Sunday. The gang was cornered near Hebron.
Security authorities said that wiping out the gang was a major success. The commander of the Israel Defense Force Central Command, Maj. Gen. Amnon Shahak, said the area is now cleaned of terrorists. Nevertheless, he cautioned hikers and campers to take their excursions in the area in groups, not singly nor in pairs, and to go armed.
The gang is reported to have carried out a number of attacks, murdering five Israelis. These include Edna Harari, 22, and Mordechai Suissa, 24, whose bullet riddled bodies were found last Saturday after extensive searches. The gang wounded 18 other Israelis in the last 17 months.
Its members had been living off the land, obtaining arms, ammunition and food and other supplies from local Arab villagers. Many of the latter have been detained for questioning.
BACKGROUND OF GANG’S ACTIVITIES
Security sources said the gang’s activities began with a solo attack by its leader, Mohammed Hassan Ghnaimat, 31, of Surif village. He wounded an Israeli hiker in the Wadi Fukin area southwest of Jerusalem in May, 1984.
Employed as a laborer in Beth Shemesh, he subsequently recruited two relatives from his native village, Mahmoud Ghnaimat and Mohammed Bardaiya; also Mohammed A-Tus of nearby Jab’a village and Ali Haleila of Samu’a.
Equipped with weapons, some of them stolen, or bought from people who had stolen them from the IDF, the gang is believed to have murdered Meir Ben-Yair and Michal Cohen in Massu’a forest and to have carried out a number of rifle attacks on Jewish buses, including a recent attack on an Egged bus near Halhoul south of Jerusalem.
The exposure of the gang is believed to have resulted from improved intelligence work following the concentration of intelligence agents and personnel in the West Bank after the IDF withdrew from Lebanon last June.