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Monday, February 26, 2007

Another day, another explosives factory

Last update - 20:43 26/02/2007

Another day, another explosives factory. It is called "Zionist oppression."

IDF troops uncover third explosives factory in Nablus raid
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and The Associated Press

Israel Defense Forces troops on Monday uncovered an explosives laboratory in the West Bank city of Nablus, on the second day of an arrest operation in the city. The laboratory, which contained two gas balloons, pipe bombs, explosives, computers and electrical equipment, was the third uncovered by the IDF since Saturday.

Earlier Monday, Palestinian Anan al-Tibi, 50, was killed and his son was injured day during the raid in Nablus. Al-Tibi was killed by a bullet to the neck while walking down a street with his son in the old city, breaking the army's curfew. His son was wounded in his leg from the gunfire. The two were apparently unarmed.

IDF troops sealed off the center of Nablus' old city with cement blocks and trash containers Monday, and moved from apartment to apartment in search of seven Palestinian fugitives whose names the army broadcast over local TV and radio stations.

The raid is the largest IDF raid in the West Bank in months, with about 80 jeeps, armored vehicles and bulldozers moving around Nablus. Troops enforced a curfew that confined tens of thousands of Palestinians to their homes.

IDF troops also arrested the manager of the city's local television station, 43-year-old Naif Bariq.

Nablus's schools and the university remained closed on Monday, and reports from Nablus indicate that one of the schools has been transformed into a makeshift holding facility, where the IDF rounds up Palestinians and conducts preliminary investigations.

The defense establishment decided to conduct the operation following growing reports of intentions by local terrorist rings to carry out bombings. The Shin Bet was worried about relative improvements in the effectiveness of explosive devices and about the magnitude of recent plans for attacks.

Four IDF battalions, assisted by the border police, raided the city's casbah and began searching for suspects and weapons. The IDF's wanted list includes six key Fatah militants and several dozens collaborators from Fatah and Islamic Jihad.

Residents said soldiers moved from house to house, searching every room.

Mohammed Attireh, 47, who lives in the area, said all the residents of his building were ordered to stay in his apartment while troops searched the other apartments. Then the group of more than 20 people was taken to another house, while soldiers searched his apartment.

Attireh said troops took over two houses on his street as temporary positions, and that almost every house in the neighborhood was searched.

Seven members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent offshoot of the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, were the apparent target of the raid.

In a new tactic, troops broke into transmissions of local TV and radio stations Sunday and broadcast the names of the men, all residents of the old city. Soldiers warned civilians against hiding the fugitives.

Abir Kilani, director of the local TV station Gama, said her broadcasts were interrupted several times by the army. Kilani noted that this method is much more effective and cheaper than the military's previous tactic of dropping leaflets with messages to residents.

Dozens of Al-Aqsa gunmen operate in Nablus, organized in small groups without a central authority. Residents have complained that some of the gunmen are terrorizing the city by settling personal scores in shooting attacks, acting as self-appointed vice squads or engaging in black mail.

Two Al-Aqsa gunmen, brothers Ahmed and Alaa Sanakra, said all fugitives had gone into hiding, but were communicating with each other. Alaa Sanakra said the IDF raid helped unite the splintered groups, but left the gunmen worried.

The Nablus operation began before dawn Sunday with bulldozers closing main roads with piles of rubble. Soldiers ordered residents to remain indoors and said the clampdown would remain in effect for several days.

Soldiers uncovered two explosives labs in what the IDF said would be an open-ended sweep. Palestinian officials charged that the offensive threatened efforts to restart peace negotiations.

The army said the road closures and curfew were necessary to avoid civilian casualties.

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