Security forces this week arrested dozens of members of a Hamas cell, possibly averting at least two planned suicide bombings against Israelis, the Israeli army has announced.
Some 40 suspected Hamas members based in the West Bank were arrested in the sweep by General Service agents and soldiers, an army spokesman said.
Among those arrested were several Palestinians who allegedly helped the terrorist, Salah Assawi, when he carried out the Oct. 19 suicide bombing of a bus in the heart of Tel Aviv that killed 23 people, including Assawi.
But army sources said that Yehia Ayash – nicknamed “the engineer” for his work with explosives and who was believed to have masterminded the Oct. 19 attack as well as others – still remained at large.
During their searches in the West Bank, security forces found a large cache of chemical components used for making explosives, ammunition, skullcaps similar to those worn by Jewish settlers and Israeli army uniforms.
Suspects told investigators that two attacks were being planned in Petach Tikva and near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
Military sources said that a total of some 400 Hamas activists in the territories have been arrested recently in a crackdown on the Islamic fundamentalist group.
In related news, two Palestinians from eastern Jerusalem have been charged with complicity in the kidnapping and murder of Israeli soldier Cpl. Nachshon Waxman.
The Lod military court charged the two, Zachariya Najab and Jihad Ya’amur, with giving shelter to Waxman’s kidnappers and with belonging to Izz a-Din al-Kassam, the military wing of Hamas.
The two were remanded in custody until the proceedings against them have been concluded.
Waxman was killed by his Hamas abductors on Oct. 14, when Israeli commandos launched an abortive raid on the house where he was being held. The three abductors were killed in the raid, as was an Israeli commando, Capt. Nir Poraz.