Disguised Israeli forces capture Hamas militant, army says
Cause of Arafat's death still mystery, investigation finds
HEBRON, West Bank -- Israeli forces disguised as vegetable vendors captured a senior Hamas operative who had been on the run for eight years, while others caught a 14-year-old boy whom militants tried to push into becoming a suicide bomber, the army said yesterday.
The arrest sweep came as Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said the official investigation into Yasser Arafat's death failed to determine what killed the longtime Palestinian leader.
Arafat died in a French hospital Nov. 11 after his health rapidly declined, and the cause of death has remained a mystery. His wife, Suha, refused an autopsy.
The report, issued by a special ministerial committee that investigated the death, said it was ''the result of deep bleeding in the brain." However, doctors could not determine the initial source of his ailment, the report said.
''French and Palestinian doctors who treated the martyred brother found that medicine could not find the disease which infected Arafat, neither viruses, nor germs, nor AIDS, nor bacteria," Qurei said.
Israel's new arrest raids across the West Bank occurred as part of a recent crackdown on militants following Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip last month.
Undercover forces -- some disguised as vegetable vendors -- arrested Ibrahim Ighnimat, a Hamas militant linked to a 1997 suicide bombing that killed three Israelis, four shooting attacks, and the kidnapping and killing of an Israeli soldier, the army said.
Israel has been hunting for Ighnimat, 47, for eight years and has doggedly collected information about him, said Lieutenant Colonel David Kimchi, commander of the operation.
Troops followed Ighnimat for several days and learned his daily routine before the arrest in the village of Tsurif, Kimchi said. Ighnimat was sitting in the yard of his house when the soldiers arrived, and tried to flee, but was arrested almost immediately, Kimchi said.
In another raid, the army arrested a 14-year-old Palestinian boy who told interrogators that militants from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, which has ties to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, pressured him to carry out a suicide bombing after he quarreled with his father.
Militant groups have increasingly turned to youths to carry out attacks, hoping the army would be less suspicious of them. The boy, identified by militants and his parents as Salah al Jitan, would have been one of the youngest Palestinian suicide bombers.
The teenager said the militants threatened to kill him and tell everyone he was a collaborator with Israel if he did not carry out the attack, the army said.
Jamal Tirawi, an Al-Aqsa commander the army accused of recruiting the boy, said the account was ''a lie."