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Israeli forces find terror cell in crackdown on Arab militants

JERUSALEM, Sept. 22 (JTA) – Israeli security forces have arrested dozens of West Bank Palestinians suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. As part of the sweep, Israeli soldiers sealed several West Bank villages Monday. Israeli officials also closed down a mosque in the West Bank village of Dura after they found materials linked to Hamas that they said incited violence against Israel. The mosque was shut down for four months. Another mosque in the village of Samoa was also closed down. On Saturday night, the Israel Defense Force carried out a sweep of West Bank towns in an operation that was overseen by Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan, the head of IDF operations in the West Bank. In recent weeks, Israeli security forces have rounded up scores of suspected members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad fundamentalist organizations after the July 30 and Sept. 4 suicide bombings in Jerusalem that killed 20 Israelis. Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai said Sunday that the arrests were linked to Israel’s investigation into the attacks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mordechai claim that the terrorists who carried out the attacks came from the autonomous areas. Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat insists that the bombers came from abroad, a position he reiterated at a weekend meeting in Cairo of the 22-member Arab League and on Monday to reporters in the Gaza Strip. Also Monday, Israel demanded that the Palestinian Authority hand over four Palestinians suspected of involvement in terrorist attacks that killed 11 Israelis during the past year. Three of the Palestinians are believed to belong to a Hamas cell from the village of Tsurif near Hebron. Israeli officials believe they were involved in the March 21 suicide bombing of the Cafe Apropos in central Tel Aviv that killed 3 Israelis and wounding 47 others. The fourth Palestinian is wanted in connection with the May 13, 1996, killing of David Boim, 17, who was shot dead when terrorists opened fire on a hitchhiking stand near Beit El. Justice Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who signed the extradition orders, said the Palestinian Authority has ignored 36 such requests in the past. In a related development, Israeli security forces disclosed last week that they had uncovered a terrorist cell whose members included two residents of eastern Jerusalem who allegedly had planned to carry out a bomb attack in Jerusalem’s indoor shopping mall. The two men, who were brought before the Lod Military Court last week, were charged with attempting to plant a bomb in the Malha shopping mall. The indictment sheet said Mahmad Hamda and Iman Mahmad Suleiman went to the mall with bags stuffed with clothing and nails to see if they would be caught by security. They allegedly left the bags near the ticket counters at the mall’s movie theater. No one notified the guards. The two were also charged with an attack last year at the old Tel Aviv central bus station in which they put two bombs inside garbage cans. Fourteen people were wounded in the explosions. According to reports, the cell to which they belonged also planned to kidnap Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert and another senior Israeli figure with the intention of swapping them for the release of Hamas prisoners held by Israel. Security was stepped up around Olmert after the cell’s discovery.

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