Hamas recruit reveals ease of enlisting bombers

PATRICK COCKBURN

Jerusalem

Squeezing out the words as if to satisfy an off-screen interrogator, Mohammed Abu Wardeh described how he recruited the suicide bombers who blew up two buses in Jerusalem. From his cell in the headquarters of the Palestinian security police in Jericho he told his Israeli television interviewer: "I was asked to prepare two people and I prepared them to carry out a suicide attack."

Abu Wardeh spoke as if his jailers had told him to stick to the script of his confession. From his look of exhaustion mixed with fear, he already had a good idea of what would happen to him if he did not obey. Recanting his previous beliefs, he called on Izzedine al-Qasim, the military wing of Hamas, not "to repeat these actions".

With Israeli tanks and infantry encircling Gaza and the towns and villages of the West Bank, the Palestinian authorities are desperate to prove to Israel that they are doing everything to stop the suicide bombers. Abu Wardeh, 20, a student at a teacher training college run by the UN in Ramallah, north of Jerusalem, was their best catch so far and they wanted him on display.

He says he joined Izzedine al-Qasim only four weeks ago after he was recruited by a man named Abu-Ahmed, from Gaza. He was told to look for potential suicide bombers. Abu Wardeh, who comes from Hebron, had some difficulties at first, but he persuaded a cousin, Majdi Abu Wardeh, 19, to volunteer for an attack. Majdi and a second recruit, Ibrahim Hussan Sarahne, came from al Fawwar refugee camp, a squalid settlement of 7,000 people five miles south of Hebron.

At first Abu Wardeh "sounded them out, then afterwards I received their agreement in principle". On 25 January the two young men, carrying explosives mixed with ballbearings and nails, went to Jerusalem and Ashkelon where they killed themselves along with 25 other people. "There were moments when I did not have faith in it," says Abu Wardeh. He was asked to volunteer as a bomber himself. He refused but this did not stop him recruiting a student called Raid Karim Mahmed Sharnobi from the teacher training college and sent him to Jerusalem with a third bomb last Sunday.

The televised confession was meant to reassure Israelis, but in fact it showed how easy Abu Wardeh found it to recruit and arm potential bombers from the impoverished camps and villages of the West Bank. No expertise was required on their part other than a willingness to die.

Abu Wardeh says that after last Sunday's attack he asked his operators in Gaza for a break but they told him to find recruits to launch new attacks.

The Israeli Public Security Minister, Moshe Shahal, said yesterday that Israel knew the name and location of the overall organiser in Gaza of the last four bomb attacks and had given both to Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader.

A second arrest is also worrying Israelis. This is of a 54-year-old Arab- Israeli lorry driver whose willingness to drive a bomber from Gaza to the Dezingoff Centre in Tel Aviv, where he killed 13 people last Monday, will reinforce the Israeli right in their suspicion of the 900,000 Arab minority in Israel. Driving a truck with Israeli number plates, he had a licence to transport scrap metal out of Gaza from the Karni checkpoint. Last week a member of Islamic Jihad, which has had its own suicide bombing campaign, asked him to take an extra passenger out of Gaza in exchange for $1,100 [pounds 700].

On Monday afternoon the unnamed driver picked up a man with a bag who probably hid under the seat in the cab. Just before 4pm the lorry let off the passenger near Dezingoff Centre, where he almost immediately detonated the 30lb charge which had been in the bag. All drivers who had been to Gaza that day were called in by the police and in the house of one was found $1,100. He then admitted to the extra passenger.

The suicide bombs overshadowed the first meeting of the Palestinian Council, the legislative body chosen in the first Palestinian election in January, which met for the first time in Gaza yesterday. Under the terms of the Oslo agreement the Palestinians must revoke their charter calling for the destruction of Israel within two months of it meeting. Otherwise Shimon Peres, the Israeli Prime Minister, says he will freeze the peace process.

Pollsters put Likud ahead of Labour

Jerusalem (Reuter) - Benjamin Netanyahu, the right-wing opposition leader, has taken a lead over Shimon Peres, the Prime Minister, for the first time, according to an Israeli opinion poll released yesterday. The poll, broadcast on Israeli television, gave Mr Netanyahu 48 per cent of the vote and Mr Peres 46 per cent some three months before the general election on 29 May. Hanoch Smith, who conducted the survey, said earlier this week that he had expected the Likud leader to edge past Mr Peres after the recent suicide bombings.

News
Shoppers at Selfridges department store in central London
news

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game