JERUSALEM (Oct. 20)
The Palestinian who carried out Monday’s grenade attack in Beersheba has admitted that he murdered a Hebron rabbi and was involved in other terrorist activities.
Salem Rajab Sarsour, a 29-year-old resident of Hebron and father of five, was apprehended by bystanders immediately after throwing two hand grenades during the morning rush hour at Beersheba’s central bus station. Sixty-six people were wounded in the attack.
Sarsour disclosed during his interrogation by Israeli police that he was also responsible for the August stabbing murder of Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan in the Tel Rumeida section of Hebron and for a grenade attack on Israeli troops patrolling the divided West Bank town on Yom Kippur.
Public Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani said Sarsour was a member of Hamas, adding that he had not carried out the Beersheba attack by himself.
Palestinian security officials maintained Monday that Sarsour had acted alone.
The military wing of Hamas, Izz a-Din al-Kassam, issued a statement Tuesday in which it claimed responsibility for the Beersheba attack.
Israeli security forces, who remained on a heightened alert for any additional Hamas assaults, are investigating whether Sarsour was behind any other terrorist incidents.
Settler leader Aharon Domb claimed that Israeli security forces had asked their Palestinian counterparts several months ago to detain Sarsour for suspected involvement in Hamas activities. Domb maintained that the Palestinian Authority failed even to question Sarsour.
The need for improved Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation is one of the key Israeli demands at the Middle East peace summit currently underway near Washington.
Within hours of Monday’s attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement from the site of the summit in eastern Maryland that he would continue with the talks despite the attack.
But Israeli negotiators hammered away at the security issue, saying the grenade attack underscored what they had been maintaining for months — that there could be no agreement without a Palestinian commitment to crack down on terror.
Meanwhile, Palestinian security officials in the self-rule areas said their investigation indicated that Sarsour was an agent for Israeli security and that he had carried out this week’s grenade attack to dispel any doubts his Hamas comrades may have had about his loyalties.