Israel Continues Counter-Terrorism Sweep With Arrests, House Demolitions

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:12 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Three Palestinians were killed in three separate incidents on Wednesday as Israel tried to arrest wanted Palestinians in the West Bank - part of its counter-terrorism sweep.

Israeli troops also closed down two Palestinian Universities in Hebron, which are considered hotbeds of terrorist activity. And in another development, Israeli troops arrested 21 wanted Palestinians in four West Bank cities.

In Jerusalem, under rainy skies, Israeli security forces were demolishing the homes of four convicted members of a Jerusalem terror cell responsible for dozens of murders in several major terror attacks, including one in which five Americans were killed.

The Israeli army blew up the house of Wisam Abassi in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor on Wednesday.

Abassi was one of four members of the so-called "Silwan Cell," which perpetrated a number of deadly attacks, including the bombings of a Rishion LeZion billiards club, the Moment Cafe in Jerusalem and a Hebrew University cafeteria, where five Americans were among the dead.

The homes of the other three cell members in the Silwan and Ras al-Amud neighborhoods will be filled with concrete to make them uninhabitable because they are attached to other dwellings, police said.

"They knew that we are going to come," said Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby. "[The families] already left the houses weeks ago."

Last summer, Israel re-instituted the practice of demolishing terrorists' homes, particularly those of suicide bombers, hoping that the threat of leaving their families homeless would act as a deterrent to terrorism.

However, Wednesday's demolition was the first time that a Jerusalem home has been knocked down during the current intifadah, Ben-Ruby said.

In the West Bank, 21 wanted Palestinians, including two Hamas terrorists, were arrested in Ramallah, Tulkarem, near Nablus and in Bethlehem, an army spokesman said.

Early in the morning, a 17-year-old Palestinian in the Tulkarem refugee camp threw six explosive devices at Israeli troops who fired on him killing him, the army spokesman said.

Nearby in Tulkarem, troops fired on another 17-year-old, who was throwing Molotov cocktails at a Border Police unit, military sources said. Palestinians sources reported that the youth had died.

In Kabatiya, near Jenin, Israeli troops surrounded two Fatah militants in a building and demanded they surrender. The two, who were wanted for recruiting suicide bombers, refused to surrender.

Israeli troops barricaded the house and were approached from another direction by a man who refused to heed their warning shots. He was killed by troops, military sources said. Palestinians sources were quoted as saying the man was mentally ill.

The two militants then surrendered. Ammunition, weapons and explosive devices were found in the house, an army spokesman said.

The army also closed down three sites of the Politechnicum and the Islamic College in Hebron "as part of the ongoing war against terrorism," the army spokesperson said in a statement.

"For years, particularly since the beginning of the current conflict, certain Palestinian academic institutions have become focal points and havens for radical religious and nationalist activity for terrorists organizations," she said.

The organizations based their operational infrastructure on students and used the resources of the schools to publish inciting materials and recruit and train hundreds of operatives she said.

Terrorists from the Politechnicum included three terrorists responsible for a shooting attack in Hebron on the Sabbath Eve in which 12 Israelis were killed, the terrorist that infiltrated into the community of Adora in April 2002, killing four Israelis including a five-year-old girl in her bedroom and the terrorist who infiltrated into Othniel in December, killing seven, the spokesperson said.

Among those who studied at the Islamic College was the terrorist responsible for the shooting terror attack near the Israeli army Southern Command Headquarters in Be'er Sheba, in which two soldiers were killed. Two other students admitted to being directly involved in the infiltration into Karmei Tzur in which three Israelis were killed, she added.