Israel on High Alert After Killing Most-Wanted Palestinian Terrorist

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israeli security forces are on high alert Friday after killing a Palestinian terrorist on Israel's most-wanted list.

Jamal Abu Samhadanah, the founder and commander of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), had recently been appointed by the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority to reform the P.A. security services. Samhadanah was accused of involvement in many terror attacks, including an attack on an American diplomatic convoy.

The PRC, which was formed at the beginning of the intifadah in 2000 from discontented members of various terror groups, vowed revenge for the death of Samahadanah.

Despite the security situation, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised Jordan's King Abdullah II that he would meet soon with P.A. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Olmert met with Abdullah in Amman on Thursday in an attempt to allay Jordanian fears that Israel might implement a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank as it did from the Gaza Strip last summer.

Jordan, a key U.S. Middle East ally, is concerned that a similar move in the West Bank would leave a radicalized and chaotic P.A. on its western front that could cause trouble in Jordan. More than half of the Jordanian population is of Palestinian descent.

Olmert has vowed to set Israel's permanent borders with or without an agreement with the Palestinians by 2010. If there is no Palestinian partner, Olmert has indicated that he would carry out a major unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, uprooting an estimated 70,000 Israelis from their homes and communities.

In his meeting with Olmert, the king said he had emphasized Jordan's position that a "two-state solution is the only solution that we should seek," and it must be achieved through "bilateral Israel-Palestinian negotiations that are based on the road map."

In a meeting with President Bush last month and with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak earlier this week, Olmert promised to do all he could to speak directly with Abbas. Olmert repeated that pledge on Thursday.

Nevertheless, he indicated that Israel would take matters into its own hands if there is no movement in the political process.

"Political stalemate in the Middle East is bad for Israel, is bad for the Palestinians and is bad for Jordan and the region. It is essential to avoid stagnation," Olmert said.

Abdullah is not the only one who is opposed to a unilateral Israeli withdrawal. According to a public opinion survey published on the Ha'aretz website on Friday, a majority of Israelis oppose Olmert's unilateral withdrawal plan.

Fifty-six percent of the Israelis polled voiced opposition to the plan, 37 percent said they backed the idea and seven percent said they were undecided.

'Small point' of contention

The United States is pushing for an Olmert-Abbas meeting. Abbas, in his struggle to gain the upper hand with Hamas, is expected to call for a national referendum on a two-state solution - a plan that calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state within the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Jerusalem as its capital.

The document, drafted by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, implicitly recognizes Israel. It also calls continued terror attacks against Israel in the West Bank.

Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad said that Hamas accepted more than 90 percent of the two-state document that Abbas is threatening to put up for a referendum but he didn't think it should be put to a national vote.

"It will create more crisis [and] increase the splitting in Palestinian society," Hamad said.

Former P.A. minister Yasser Abed Rabbo (Fatah) was quoted as saying that a referendum is the only thing that can heal the rifts among Palestinians.

According to Hamad, the two sides disagree only on "small points," including recognition of the State of Israel.

The "political visions" of Hamas and Fatah are "very close to each other now," said Hamad. Hamas has agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, he said, but it "rejects the recognition" of Israel.

Attacks against Americans and children

At least three Kassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip hit southern Israel early Friday after Samhadanah's death.

Terror alerts peaked on Friday with more than 90 warnings of pending terror attacks, radio reports said, up from the usual 60-70.

Although Samhadanah was one of Israel's most wanted terrorists, the army said he was not the target of its attack late Thursday.

"The strike was against a PRC training camp near the former [Israeli] community of Slav. Samhadanah was not the target of the attack," said a spokesperson. (Palestinian militants reportedly have been using some of the former Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip as military training grounds for terror attacks.)

According to the army, the group was training at the camp, apparently for some kind of large attack.

Two months ago Samhadanah was appointed by the Hamas-led P.A. to head a newly created security force inside the P.A. and was tasked with "rehabilitating" the P.A. security services. It is unclear if he actually had taken up the post.

Samhadanah is linked to the 2003 bombing of an American diplomatic convoy in Gaza, in which three Americans were killed - something he recently denied; and the 2004 murder of a pregnant Israeli mother and her four young daughters at point-blank range.

He's also blamed for a slew rocket attacks against Israel since the Israeli pullout from Gaza last September, the army said.

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