Hebron's Playing, and Plotting, Field

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Arnon Regular

HEBRON - Ziyad al-Fahudi proudly holds the white soccer jersey of his son, Fadi al-Fahudi, who was killed some two months ago after infiltrating Kiryat Arba. Fadi al-Fahudi wore the No. 15 jersey for the Jihad Mosque soccer team, which is affiliated with the A-Rabat Mosque in the Abu Katila neighborhood of Hebron.

A local, modest soccer league plays every Friday in Hebron, and some of the teams in the league have ties with the mosque. The Jihad Mosque soccer jersey is adorned with a hand brandishing an ax.

Fadi al-Fahudi's team also included five other known terrorists: Fuad al-Qawasmeh, Hamza al-Qawasmeh, Muhsan al-Qawasmeh, Hazam al-Qawasmeh and Basam a-Takruri, all of whom carried out suicide attacks in the name of Hamas in the Hebron area and inside the Green Line over the last few months.

The six soccer-playing terrorists were part of Hamas' Hebron Hills branch, which falls under the command of Ahmed Bader, the head of the organization's military wing in the region. Bader, who is wanted by the Israel Defense Forces, is believed to be behind the attacks carried out by the six soccer players that left 12 Israelis dead and wounded dozens.

The soccer team is not the sole common denominator among the six terrorists, who all lived in the same neighborhood, within a radius of a few hundred meters of each other. Some 50 meters from the al-Fahudi house lie the remains of the three-story home of Fuad al-Qawasmeh, 22, who carried out last week's suicide bombing next to Gross Square in Hebron. The home of Hamza al-Qawasmeh, who killed former Kach activist Netanel Ozeri near Givat Haharsina in January, is another 200 meters away. Next to that is the house of Muhsan al-Qawasmeh, who was killed in January while attempting to carry out an attack in the southern Hebron Hills.

Hazam al-Qawasmeh, who also lived about 200 meters from the al-Fahudi home, was Fadi al-Fahudi's partner in a Kiryat Arba attack in which al-Fahudi was killed by the IDF. A day after that attack, al-Fahudi's relatives found a happy picture of the two best friends in a fancy frame. It turns out they had been taken to a prestigious photography shop before the terror attack to have the picture taken. The Hamas recruiters did this as a gesture to the al-Fahudi family and left the photo at its doorstep, instead of releasing a videotape with their wills, as is the common practice.

Basam a-Takruri, another member of the Jihad Mosque soccer team who lived in a building nearby, blew himself up on Jerusalem bus No. 6 near the French Hill junction earlier this month. The attack killed seven people, including one Palestinian, and left more than 20 wounded.

The IDF demolished the homes of Fadi al-Fahudi's five teammates, and Ziyad al-Fahudi is waiting in fear for the bulldozers to come for his home as well. The contents of the house have already been removed, so if the soldiers do come, he'll be ready to leave. When Ziyad al-Fahudi, who works for the Hebron Municipality, looks out of his window, he can see the simple soccer field of his son's team. The 50-by-20-meter field is located between hillside ridges used to cultivate olives in the former orchard. The stones signifying the goalposts are still in place.

The house that Ziyad al-Fahudi rents, near Hebron University, belongs to a former Palestinian minister, Talal Sader, who is close to Islamic circles in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"Fadi fought the occupation and I respect his decision," Sader says. "The attack took place on Friday, and Fadi went to the mosque for afternoon and evening prayers. Afterward, I tried to reach him on the phone, but there was no answer. Only later, when the Shin Bet security service came to question me, did I understand that he was the one who had carried out the attack in Kiryat Arba."

The security forces' frustration from the terror attacks in Hebron and Jerusalem apparently stems from their failure to find the thread that ties together the terrorists who carried out those attacks.

Fahad al-Qawasmeh, a cousin of Fuad al-Qawasmeh, who disguised himself as a settler and managed to get to Gross Square, described the events leading up to the attack his cousin carried out.

"Everyone plays in that field, and the martyrs played there a few times a week for several hours at a time, and then would go home," says Fahad al-Qawasmeh. "Fuad, who was a trainee at a hairdresser in the city, was placed in administrative detention during the intifada; and since his release, he hasn't been the same person. He became introverted and didn't speak a lot. A few days before he carried out the attack, he gave himself a strange haircut. On the night of the attack, his brother received a phone call and was told that his brother had carried out the attack."

One lone tent, which the Red Cross set up for Fuad al-Qawasmeh's family, still stands in the yard of his demolished house. One of the apartments in the building that the IDF destroyed belonged to Fuad al-Qawasmeh and the others belonged to his family, which has gone to live with other relatives.

In addition to the six neighbors, another two suicide bombers also played on the Jihad Mosque team - Mujahad al-Jabri, who carried a bomb that exploded near the A-Ram roadblock in the Jerusalem area about half an hour after the French Hill attack perpetrated by teammate Basam a-Takruri; and Mahmoud al-Qawasmeh, who carried out a terror attack in March on bus No. 37 in Haifa, killing 17 Israelis and wounding more than 40.

Both al-Jabri and Mahmoud al-Qawasmeh played for Jihad Mosque even though they lived in a different neighborhood, Harat a-Sheikh, about three kilometers from Abu Katila.

Some of the terrorists who played on the Jihad Mosque team also studied together in technological fields at the Palestine Polytechnic College, about 20 of whose students have carried out suicide bombings in the current intifada. Most of them belonged to the al-Qawasmeh family, considered one of the largest and most powerful families in Hebron. Fuad al-Qawasmeh's uncle runs the education department in Hebron, and his father is a moneychanger who travels between the villages of the Hebron Hills. Eight members of the family have carried out terror attacks in the last three months.

The terrorist teammates reflect the strata of Hebron society: some were simple workers; some were from the middle class; some were well-established and educated. Fadi al-Fahudi worked as a private electrician; Hamza al-Qawasmeh was a simple construction worker; Muhsan al-Qawasmeh's family owned one of the largest bookstores in the city; Hazam al-Qawasmeh was a mechanic; and Basam a-Takruri ran his family's convenience store.



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