Bus station terrorist may be youngest bomber yet
Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for yesterday's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, in which nine Israelis were killed. The perpetrator has been identified as Samer Salim Hammed, 16, from the village of Al-Araqa, near the West Bank city of Jenin. Hammed is thought to be the youngest suicide bomber, although teens as young as 14 and 15 have been found with explosive devices in their possession.
Sources in the Jenin area say that Hammed, who comes from a poor family, left home last Tuesday. According to his family, he had not been heard from since. Hammed had been studying social work via a correspondence course at Al-Quds Open University for a few years, but he left school. He had worked at various Jenin restaurants, but became unemployed recently.
Islamic Jihad in the West Bank is responsible for all of the fatal attacks executed inside the Green Line since January 2005. A total of 21 Israelis were killed in the previous six attacks within Israel. Three more were killed in a suicide bombing and shooting attacks in the West Bank.
The organization was also responsible for dispatching the bomber who blew himself up in the same restaurant, Rosh Ha'ir, in January. Twenty people were injured in that incident.
The security forces have arrested hundreds of Jihad activists in the last 18 months and killed 20 others. Among those killed were individuals identified as leaders of the organization, but their removal did not stop the group's operations.
The security forces are also perturbed by the activities of "wildcat" cells of Fatah's military wing, primarily in the Nablus area. One of them, in coordination with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, sent the suicide bomber who carried out the attack in Kedumim last month in which four Israelis were killed.
There was no specific warning about yesterday's attack. The Shin Bet security sources are still piecing together the exact route that Hammed took to Tel Aviv. Details of the investigation are not being released. In a previous incident, the attackers and their drivers entered Jerusalem in places where the separation fence had not been completed and took either the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway (No. 1) or the Jerusalem-Modi'in Road (No. 443).
Security forces stopped a Mitsubishi van on Road No. 443, west of Givat Ze'ev, after an hour-long chase. The three occupants, all Palestinians from East Jerusalem, were detained for questions. Witnesses had reported seeing a similar van fleeing from the area of the attack shortly after it occurred. No evidence of explosives was found in the vehicle.
The West Bank has been under a closure order for over a month, during the Purim holiday, the week of elections and the Passover holiday.
Earlier yesterday Israel Defense Forces soldiers on an operation in Nablus to round up wanted activists opened fire after they were fired upon. Two Palestinians were wounded, including a 13-year-old boy.