Leader of Metzer Plot Arrested

The man regarded as responsible for plotting this week's Kibbutz Metzer massacre and an earlier terrorist attack at the settlement of Hermesh, gave himself up to the army yesterday.

The man regarded as responsible for plotting this week's Kibbutz Metzer massacre and an earlier terrorist attack at the settlement of Hermesh, gave himself up to the army yesterday after a three-hour siege of a house where he was hiding in a village north of Tul Karm.

Mohammed Naifeh was hiding in the house in Shweike when army troops, including Naval Commandos, surrounded the area, operating on the basis of intelligence information acquired by the Shin Bet.

Naifeh contacted Tanzim officials from inside the house, and they turned to B'Tselem, the human rights group, and the Red Cross with a message from the man considered a ringleader for the Tanzim in the Tul Karm area. Naifeh proposed that he give himself up - if Israel promise not to assassinate him after he came out of the building.

The army announced he would not be harmed, as long as he left wearing only his underwear, to be sure that he wasn't carrying any explosives or weapons. Around 11 A.M., three hours after the army surrounded the house, Naifeh came out, along with two junior Tanzim operatives.

Naifeh, 24, is also known as Abu Rabiye, and was one of the commanders of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the region. Israel says he was directly involved in a series of terrorist attacks, including suicide missions. The efforts to capture him were beefed up after last month's Hermesh attack, in which a woman and her two daughters were killed and particularly after the Kibbutz Metzer attack on Sunday, when two toddlers and their mother were killed by a lone gunman who also killed two other adults.

Naifeh's capture alive was critical for Israel, because the Shin Bet already has proof that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat handed him $20,000 earlier this year, and the authorities want to glean more information from him about Arafat's involvement in financing terrorism.

Still at large is the main suspect in the Metzer incident, Sirhan Sirhan, a Tanzim man from Tul Karm. But earlier in the day, in Tul Karm, troops blew up the home of Tak Abu Sfaqa, a member of the Fatah-related Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, who was killed during the October 29 attack on Hermesh.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday that the IDF was prepared "for many weeks" in Nablus, one day after hundreds of troops entered the West Bank city as the army began its latest major military operation.

Sharon, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon yesterday toured the Nablus area, where they were briefed by soldiers in the field and observed the city refugee camps in the area.

During the visit, Sharon said the IDF will remain in Nablus for a longer time than it did in Jenin, where less than two weeks ago, troops spent more than two weeks carrying out operations. "We are prepared for many weeks," Sharon said.

Earlier in the day, an 18-year-old Palestinian was killed by IDF fire in the Casbah area of Nablus when he was throwing a Molotov cocktail at troops.

And in Gaza City, early yesterday morning, the IDF penetrated deep into a neighborhood not far from the home of of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, to arrest Yusuf Meqdiad, a Palestinian security officer, and two other men on Israel's wanted list. The operation began at about 2 A.M. and soldiers penetrated some two kilometers into the city from its southern entrance, witnesses said.