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Palestinian Sentenced to Life for Planning Suicide Bombings

March 6, 1996
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A Palestinian court has sentenced a West Bank man to life in prison with hard labor on charges of recruiting three of the four suicide bombers who have recently struck in Israel.

The man was identified as Mohammed Abu Wardeh, 21, a second-year student at the Ramallah Teachers Training College.

A court in the West Bank Jericho enclave conducted a hasty trial Tuesday night that Abu Wardeh did not attend.

The swift sentencing, approved by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, was apparently handed down in an effort to stave off an extradition request by Israeli authorities.

Palestinian police said Abu Wardeh recruited the suicide bombers responsible for carrying out the Feb. 25 attacks in Jerusalem and Ashkelon in addition to Sunday’s attack in Jerusalem.

A fourth bomber who carried out an attack Monday in Tel Aviv reportedly was from the Gaza Strip.

The suicide bombers claimed about 60 innocents in the four attacks, wounding more than 200 others.

Abu Wardeh received his instructions via coded messages from Hamas leaders abroad, Palestinian security sources reportedly said.

Israel Television reported that Abu Wardeh acted under the instructions of handlers based in Damascus.

Abu Wardeh said in an interview Tuesday with Palestinian Radio that he regretted his actions.

“We did not make a correct assessment of the situation,” he said during the interview, which appeared to be orchestrated by Palestinian officials.

“I appeal to all our brothers to stop these activities immediately and to stop any military action.”

The Israeli government gave Israeli security forces the go-ahead Wednesday to deport members of the Hamas fundamentalist group.

The Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported that the government had decided to use deportations – where necessary and in accordance with the law – against Hamas leaders and their families.

The controversial measure has not been applied since December 1992, when the Israeli government deported 415 Islamic militants to southern Lebanon. They were allowed to return a year later.

Meanwhile, Israeli security forces Tuesday sealed up Hebron’s Islamic College and closed five other institutions affiliated with the fundamentalist group Hamas, which has claimed responsibility for the four terror bombings.

Accompanied by Palestinian police in some of the raids, Israeli forced also arrested dozens of activists in Nablus and in West Bank refugee camps.

As part of its own crackdown on Hamas, Palestinian security forces raided the Islamic University in Gaza, a hotbed of fundamentalist activity.

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