JERUSALEM (Jul. 21)
Israeli and Palestinian security officials are working together to apprehend those responsible for this week’s failed car- bombing in Jerusalem.
It marks the first time the two sides have cooperated on security in months, according to Israeli news reports.
Israel has blamed Hamas for Sunday’s attempted terror attack, which occurred just hours before senior Israeli and Palestinian officials met in Tel Aviv to resume peace talks.
The Palestinian Authority has interrogated Hamas activists in the West Bank refugee camp where the driver of the explosive-laden van lived.
Public Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani said Tuesday that the driver, Jallal Rumaneh, a known Hamas activist, had not acted alone.
“It is safe to assume that one does not mount that amount of material on a car all by his own. He must have partners,” said Kahalani.
Police and firefighters discovered the explosives after they were called to Zion Square, where the van had caught fire.
The driver, who was severely burned in the fire, was being treated at a jerusalem hospital and has been unable to talk to interrogators.
Israeli police do not yet know how the van entered Jerusalem, but the investigation has found that the vehicle was rented and fitted with fake Israeli licence plates, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported.
Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip have denied any knowledge of the planned attack and Israeli security observers voiced doubt that the operation was an attempt by the fundamentalist group’s leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, to challenge Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
“Yassin is undoubtedly influential in the territories,” said reserve Col. Shalom Harari, a former Arab affairs adviser at the Defense Ministry, “but he is by far weaker than Arafat.”
Observers have suggested that the initiative for Sunday’s aborted attack may have come from lower levels in the Hamas organization.