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Prosecutors Charge Hamas Leaders with Plotting Murder of Soldiers

November 13, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Two Palestinians posing as Orthodox Jews abducted and murdered Israel Defense Force soldiers Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sa’adon earlier this year, the military prosecutor charged over the weekend.

He identified the pair as Mohammed Nasser, 28, and Mahmoud Mabhouh, 30, both former residents of the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.

Both use the title “sheik” and belong to Hamas, the Islamic fundamentalist organization active in the Gaza Strip, which is waging a “jihad” (holy war) against Israel within the framework of the intifada.

Although the two killers fled the country and reportedly found haven in Libya, the Israel Defense Force has in custody virtually the entire leadership of Hamas, including the men who recruited and instructed them for the murder operations.

In fact, some 200 Hamas members were arrested last May, including its leader, Sheik Ahmad Yassin, who has been charged on 15 counts. Also in custody is Mohammad Yusuf Hassan Sharatah, whose job was to recruit willing assassins.

The arrests were made at about the time Sasportas’ buried remains were discovered, not far from where he was abducted. No trace of Sa’adon has been found yet, but the IDF is convinced he met the same fate, at the hands of the same killers.

As the military prosecutor related, Sharatah was recruited personally by Yassin and made responsible for the military training of the “mujahedeen” in the Gaza Strip.

He was approached by Nasser and Mabhouh, who had plans to attack Jewish drivers delivering cooking gas cylinders from Israel to Gaza.


But the precautions taken by these drivers were too much for them to overcome, so they decided to kill lone soldiers who frequently hitch rides near military bases.

Sharatah provided the men with pistols, and they stole a Subaru car for the operation.

IDF personnel have long been alerted not to accept rides with suspicious-looking drivers. The two Hamas killers therefore put on yarmulkes and donned the traditional garb of religious Jews, the prosecutor said.

They picked up Sasportas at the Hodaya junction in southern Israel, near the Gaza Strip, on Feb. 16. He was on leave and seeking a ride home to Ashkelon.

According to the prosecutor’s reconstruction of the crime, the car traveled a short distance when Nasser turned and fired at Sasportas, mortally wounding him in the head and chest.

They buried him near the Hodaya junction, only a few hundred yards from where they picked him up. His remains were not found until May 7.

The killers took the soldier’s documents, his personal weapon and red beret to Sharatah as proof of their deed. They burned his clothing.

Sharatah, apparently pleased, approached his superiors for approval of another such mission, which was granted.

On May 3, Nasser and Mabhouh stole another Subaru, put on their kipot and picked up Sa’adon, who was waiting for a ride to Ashkelon at the Masmiya junction. He presumably was murdered in much the same fashion.

Hamas was founded by the extremist Moslem Brotherhood shortly after the intifada began on Dec. 9, 1987. The group considers itself at war not only with Israel, but with all non-Moslems.

Hamas members in custody include the leaders of its intelligence agency, Al Majd, and its military branch, Al Mujahedun al-Falestiniyun.

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