The brutal stabbing of a soldier in the Gaza Strip over the weekend has heightened concern here that progress at the peace talks in Washington will accelerate terrorist attacks by groups fearing the diminishing of the intifada as a mass popular movement.
The victim of the attack, Pvt. Alon Karavani, 21, was reported to be out of danger at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba on Sunday. He sustained multiple stab wounds, which he said were inflicted by Arabs disguised as religious Jews.
Two terrorist organizations claimed responsibility for the assault.
In a separate incident, a grenade was thrown Sunday morning at an Israel Defense Force unit patrolling the marketplace in the West Bank city of Nablus. None of the soldiers was hit, but nine local residents were wounded by a grenade fragment, one of them seriously.
Meanwhile, authorities announced that on Sept. 1, they arrested a terrorist leader who had eluded capture for 16 years. Mahmoud Suleiman Ktamash, 42, who was reportedly found in a villa in Ramallah, was identified as the commander of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the West Bank.
Also seized at the time were lists of PFLP activists in the territories. The discovery is expected to lead to massive arrests, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported Sunday.
Ktamash, described as one of the most dangerous terrorists active in the territories, reportedly received his orders directly from PFLP chief George Habash.
His arrest took place at the same time that Israeli security forces were releasing some 800 Palestinian prisoners from detention camps, a conciliatory gesture toward the Palestinians which was widely reported.
The stabbing incident began Friday afternoon when Karavani was given a lift at a hitchhiking stop near the Bureij refugee camp, in a car carrying yellow Israeli license plates. The three men inside wore skullcaps and appeared to be religious Jews.
Following standard regulations, he sat in the back seat. As the car drove off, he was stabbed a number of times and thrown out at the side of a road near an olive grove.
Sometime later, two Arab passersby summoned help, and Karavani was rushed to the hospital in serious condition. He was transferred out of the intensive care unit Sunday.
Deprived of speech by a wound to his throat, Karavani reconstructed the attack for doctors and relatives in writing. He also said the experience had turned him toward religion.
“When I was on the verge of death, I cried and prayed to God, and vowed that if I remained alive, I would observe the Sabbath and the mitzvot.”
Claiming responsibility for the incident was a group calling itself the Fath Hawks, previously known as the Black Panthers, and the Az a-Din al-Kassam group, the military branch of the Hamas fundamentalist movement.
The Kassam group is held responsible for the murder of two IDF soldiers, Ilan Sa’adon and Avi Sasportas, by terrorists apparently using the same technique as that employed against Karavani.
Three other abduction attempts over the past five years of the intifada failed after the soldiers who were seized managed to make their escape.