July 27, 2001
Force 17, the presidential guard of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser
Arafat, is guarding a Hamas explosives laboratory in Nablus, according to
reliable information received by the security establishment.
Hamas activists in Nablus have been responsible for many suicide bombings,
bombs and car bombs in Israel in recent months. Most were put together at the
lab in Nablus, and the rest were prepared in one or two other labs used by
Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Jenin.
Five suicide bombers killed by detonating themselves in Israel were sent from
Nablus, most of them theology students from the local An-Najah university. At
least five Hamas activists from Nablus and the region were killed in retaliation
by Israeli forces. Several operatives of the Fatah and the Islamic Jihad, some of
whom were in touch with Hamas activists, were also killed by the IDF and the
Shin Bet security service or in “work accidents” when putting together
On Wednesday the IDF used missiles to kill Saleh Darwazeh, a senior Hamas
activist from Nablus. Hamas said he was a politician and not part of the military
wing but the Shin Bet and the IDF assert that he was heavily involved in
preparing the suicide bombings. One security source even said it was Darwazeh
who ran the operation of the laboratory.
Since the beginning of the October Intifada, many activists of different terrorist
organizations have worked together. Apparently, unofficial cross-organization
ties are usually formed in prison cells, not only between the inmates but also
between them and their captors.
In September 2000 more than 50 Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists were being
held at the Juneid prison in Nablus. The PA released most of them when the
conflict with Israel started in October. The released prisoners renewed their
terrorist activities in squads of between seven and ten people. Some made use
of previous acquaintances and hired the services of Force 17 guards – their
former jailers – to secure Hamas armories as well as the explosives lab.
After the bombing at the nightclub in Tel Aviv on July 1st (by suicide bomber
Said Hutari, who was prepared for the mission by Hamas activists from Nablus
and Qalqilya), prominent political Hamas activists such as Hamed Bitawi and
Jamal Mansur were seen in Nablus surrounded by armed guards to protect
them against possible Israeli attacks.
Israel has recently found that Hamas had made deals with arms dealers
in Nablus and Hebron to supply them with weapons.