Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat said this week that Israeli army explosives were found at the scene of an explosion that killed at least six people in Gaza City.
“Some of these explosive materials had “Tsahal” written on them,” Arafat said Wednesday, referring to the Hebrew acronym for the Israel Defense Force.
But he reportedly stopped short of accusing Israel of direct involvement in Sunday’s explosion.
Later in the day, the Palestinian Authority issued a statement saying Israeli intelligence operatives should be blamed if it turns out that Palestinian police were wrong in their earlier assessment that the Hamas fundamentalist movement was responsible for the blast.
Sunday’s explosion ripped through a Gaza City apartment building, killing at least six people, including a senior Hamas activist who was sought by Israeli and Palestinian security forces.
Among the dead was Kamal Kheil, a member of Izz a-Din al-Kassam, the military wing of Hamas. A 3-year-old girl was also among the dead, according to witnesses. Some reports said eight people had died. At least 20 people were wounded.
Palestinian police officials originally said the explosion occurred when bombs being made by members of Hamas blew up prematurely.
Hamas denied the charges, instead charging that Arafat and Israel had conspired to set off the blast.
On Monday, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres flatly denied the accusations leveled by Hamas.
Meanwhile, Palestinian police were investigating whether the mastermind of several terror attacks against Israel died in the explosion.
A senior Palestinian official said there were indications that Yehiya Ayash, also known as “the engineer” for his bomb-making expertise, was at the site, but left minutes before the explosion.
Ayash is at the top of Israel’s most-wanted list for his alleged masterminding of suicide bomb attacks last year in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Afula and Hadera.
Israeli news reports said Ayash may have been preparing a bomb to assassinate Arafat or to use against the Palestinian police.
Gaza police also reportedly found in the factory lists of planned Hamas attacks in Israel.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said this week that Hamas may try to stage an attack in Israel to restore its prestige in the wake of the explosion.