TA bus bomber came from Fatah
By Arieh O’Sullivan
TEL AVIV (January 8) - The General Security Service has captured the terrorist responsible for bombing the Tel Aviv bus two weeks ago, and security officials said he was sent by officers affiliated with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction.
News of the arrest of Jordanian national Abdullah Abu Jaber, 25, for the December 28 bombing on a busy Tel Aviv street was the closest Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s government has come to directly implicating Arafat subordinates in plotting an attack inside Israel since clashes erupted three months ago.
Palestinian security sources last night denied any connection to Abu Jaber, a Fatah member. Moussa Arafat, the head of the PA’s Military Intelligence service, claimed he had no knowledge of the man or the attack, according to Palestinian security sources.
However, Hussein Sheikh, a Fatah leader from the West Bank, did not rule out that the organization was responsible for such attacks within Israel. Saying he supports the recent Tel Aviv and Netanya bombings, he claimed that Fatah had changed its policy of refraining from attacks across the Green Line in response to Israel’s assassination of the group’s leaders in the territories. (See story, page 2)
A senior Israeli security official also said that there was currently an ”unprecedented wave of warnings for terrorists bombings,” but hoped the talks between Israeli and Palestinians security officials in Cairo would get cooperation going again to foil the attacks.
Abu Jaber had been working periodically in Tel Aviv for the past two years, most recently as a night watchman in a Bat Yam restaurant.
Tanzim activists in Nablus recruited Abu Jaber and brought him to the West Bank city. There, officers in Palestinian Military Intelligence gave him a bomb, to be activated by a mobile phone, for him to plant on an Israeli bus.
He returned through Netanya, passed a security check at the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, and randomly chose Dan bus No. 51 headed to Petah Tikva.
He deposited his bomb and then set it off with his mobile phone. He boarded a No. 51 headed in the opposite direction and reported to his operators in Nablus that the deed was done. He later rode on to his job, security sources said.
His operators also had a mobile phone which they could have used to detonate the bomb as a backup.
Agents from the GSS located Abu Jaber and arrested him at his job later that night. The GSS also arrested a number of others involved in the bombing, which wounded 14 people.
News of Abu Jaber’s capture had been under a gag order which was lifted yesterday. A black man, Abu Jaber was recruited because he was less likely to arouse suspicion in south Tel Aviv where there are a lot of African workers, the security source said.
He had come from a family of Palestinian origin in Jordan. It is not known if he was paid.
Israel had withheld the news of Abu Jaber’s arrest from the Palestinians and it was only allowed to be reported just as top Palestinian and Israeli security officials were meeting in Cairo under CIA mediation.
The news was certain to taint the Palestinian Authority, which had until now publicly refrained from attacking targets inside Israel.
Security officials said yesterday that it was not the only attack which is likely linked to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah, but they refused to elaborate. There is suspicion that the Tanzim may have been behind the Netanya bombing last week and the bombing in Hadera last month. Security officials said that the man severely injured in last Monday’s Netanya bombing was definitely the terrorist, and it appeared that the bomb went off prematurely. He is still unconscious and police have not been able to question him.
Briefing reporters in Jerusalem yesterday, the senior security official said there is ”anarchy” in the territories and that Arafat is not fully in control. He said that the Palestinian leader has yet to give an order to calm the unrest, and even if he did, he would find it very difficult to do.
The senior security official said it would take up to two months just to bring the Palestinian security forces into line and another six months to quell the Tanzim street activists.
The Palestinian security apparatus has been rife with ”semi-desertions” and Tanzim who are also serving with the Palestinian police. Senior Israeli security sources said Tanzim involvement in attacks on Israelis is so plentiful that they have intelligence information linking nearly all commanders with either knowledge of attacks or for guiding them.
However, Israel does not have hard evidence linking the three senior Palestinian officials who went to Cairo yesterday with attacks. These are Jabril Rajoub, head of Preventative Security in the West Bank, intelligence chief Amin Hindi, and Mohammed Dahalan, head of Preventative Security in the Gaza Strip.
Israel has so far arrested some 330 Palestinians for either direct or indirect involvement in attacks on Israeli since the unrest began. The vast majority of these are affiliated with Fatah’s Tanzim organization, the senior security source said.
The official added that members of Force 17, Military Intelligence and General Intelligence were also involved in attacks on Israelis and soldiers.
The security services have detected a new phenomenon of what they call ”cocktail cells,” which are made up of members from the Tanzim, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
These cells tend to be larger than the traditional terror cells, with over a dozen members in each.
Israel hopes that a resumption of security cooperation will come out of the Cairo meeting, being mediated by CIA head George Tenet. The problem is not intelligence, the security source said, the problem is getting to the terrorists to foil their attacks.
Previous relays of intelligence information to the Palestinians with hopes they would move to foil attacks actually caused more damage, the security source said. (Lamia Lahoud contributed to this report.)