Agence France Presse (AFP)
October 26, 2008 - 8:00pm

Israeli security forces have apprehended a Hamas operative whom they say planned to capture Israeli soldiers and smuggle them into the Gaza Strip to be used in future prisoner swaps, the army said on Sunday. An army spokesman said Israeli troops and intelligence agents arrested Gamal Abu Duabah, a 21-year-old Gaza resident, on September 21 after he attempted to infiltrate Israel from Egypt.

"Under questioning he admitted to being part of a Hamas plot to kidnap Israeli soldiers," the spokesman said. "He also mentioned that he was sent by seniors in the Hamas organization who trained his squad and funded its operations, seniors with whom he kept in direct and continuous contact."

The Islamist Hamas movement - which seized power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after having won legislative elections in 2006 - is blacklisted as a "terrorist" group in the West.

In June 2006 militants from Hamas and two smaller Palestinian groups seized Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a deadly cross-border raid.

The army said Abu Duabah sneaked into Egypt from Gaza through a smuggling tunnel and spent several weeks in the Sinai planning the operation.

During his interrogation he allegedly said he planned to lure Israeli soldiers to the border with an apparent drug smuggling operation, then seize them, put them under with sleeping pills, and smuggle them back into the Gaza Strip.

Israel and Hamas agreed to an Egypt-brokered truce in June which has brought a virtual halt to the rocket strikes Palestinians used to launch into Israel in retaliation for attacks by the Jewish state.

Hamas has accused Israel of violating the truce by not lifting its crippling sanctions on the territory and Israel has charged Hamas with using the lull to rearm and plan future attacks.

Also Sunday, a senior Israeli defense official named several Palestinian prisoners out of the 1,400 demanded by Hamas in exchange for Shalit.

But while Israel has agreed in principle to release several hundred Palestinians, it has so far refused to include a list of about 450 prisoners it accuses of violence.

The list includes Abbas Asid and Fathi Abu Sheikh, two of the accused planners of a suicide bombing attack in a hotel in the coastal Israeli town of Netanya that killed 29 civilians on the eve of the Jewish Passover holiday in April 2002.

Other names include Mohammad Arman, allegedly behind suicide attacks which killed 35 people, and Makram Abu Fanuna, sentenced to three life terms for the killing of three Israeli civilians.

Another prisoner on the list, which was first published by Channel 2 news, is Abed al-Rahdi Anas, who in 1989 drove a bus off a cliff between Tel Aviv and Occupied Jerusalem, killing 14 people, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Negotiations on a prisoner exchange have made little progress so far, as Israel remains reluctant to release prisoners it accuses of having "blood on their hands." - AFP

Jewish colonists desecrate Muslim graves during rampage over closure of unsanctioned settlement

HEBRON, Occupied West Bank: Dozens of Jewish settlers rampaged through the Occupied West Bank town of Hebron on Sunday after Israeli troops removed a nonsanctioned settlement outpost, Palestinian residents said.

Witnesses said the settlers hurled rocks at houses, vandalized several Muslim graves in a local cemetery and slashed the tires of cars belonging to Palestinian residents near the Kiryat Arba settlement.

The violence broke out after Israeli security forces removed several colonists from a building outside an existing settlement.

"A settlement outpost was evacuated and several settlers were arrested," an Israeli military spokesman said. Army Radio said five settlers had been arrested and charged with assaulting soldiers.

All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and violate the Jewish state's obligations under numerous UN Security Council resolutions.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak slammed the settlers' actions, but also accused the legal system of leniency toward Jewish colonists in the Occupied West Bank.

"I would like to underline the severity of the actions and statements made by the extreme right in the territories," Barak's office quoted him as saying at a weekly cabinet meeting. "I believe that the punishment is too soft and that the legal and justice system must pay attention to that," the former army chief said.

Despite repeated reports of settler violence, few arrests or convictions are made by Israel.

The incident came a day after more than 500 Palestinian police reinforcements fanned out across the town as part of a widening security crackdown to bolster stalled US-backed peace talks.

It also comes amid a surge in settler violence directed against Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

With more than 160,000 Palestinian residents, Hebron is the largest town in the Israeli-Occupied West Bank and has long been a regional flashpoint because of an illegal colony of around 800 hard-line colonists in the heart of the town.

The settlement is surrounded by hundreds of Israeli soldiers who remain in Hebron despite the additional Palestinian forces, which will only patrol Palestinian neighborhoods and villages.


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