the terrorists become terrorized

  1. 5,748 Posts.
    Aug. 27, 2003
    The terrorists become terrorized - Palestinians go into hiding

    Palestinian terrorists are shaving off their beards, slipping into women's robes and turning off their cell phones, forced to go deeper underground to try to escape after Israel warned that they are marked for death.

    Many gunmen, bombmakers and rocket builders have been on the run for much of the past three years of fighting, but now they are taking more dramatic steps in the face of Israel's intensified manhunt.

    Israel has killed seven Hamas members, including a senior leader, in three missile strikes in five days. The latest strike was a botched helicopter attack against a car carrying Hamas members in Gaza City on Tuesday that instead killed a bystander, a waterpipe vendor. Israel's army chief has warned every militant is a "potential target for liquidation."

    In response, Hamas is urging its members to take new precautions. The Islamic militant group posted leaflets on mosque doors, telling fugitives to stay indoors or, if they must move around, to ride in cars alone, never in groups. "Our brothers should use different clothes ... and change their appearance," the flyer said.

    Several militants in Gaza and the West Bank said privately they are following the makeover advice. One West Bank Hamas activist said wanted men were urged in recent days to change their looks, and pointed to the example of Mahmoud Abu Hanoud, a legendary fugitive and bombmaker who managed to evade Israeli troops for several years, before being killed two years ago.

    Abu Hanoud was a master of disguise, at times wearing the dress of a devout Muslim woman or the robe of a Palestinian villager, or shaving off his beard and cutting his hair in a fashionable style.

    "We still use some of his ways," the Hamas activist said, noting that a heavy-set wanted man has been asked to lose weight, get rid of his beard and refine a new look for a forged ID card.

    An Israeli security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the militants' decision to lower their profile will make it harder to hit them. Israel is pressing ahead with the targeted killings, waiting for its quarry to make a mistake, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    In the Gaza Strip, terrorists mainly fear missile strikes, since Israel has not yet sent in ground troops.

    Hamas' political leaders in Gaza, once popular guests on Arab satellite TV stations, have stayed off the air since one of their own, Ismail Abu Shanab, was killed in an Israeli missile strike Thursday; a live appearance at one of the local TV studios would make it easy for Israel to hit them.

    The on-air void is being filled by Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders in Beirut and Damascus. "We fear nothing except God. Nothing scares us," said Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, speaking in a TV interview from Beirut on Monday.

    Israel's tough new policy has also prompted motorists in Gaza City, scene of the last three missile strikes, to change their habits. Many drivers now keep their windows rolled down, to hear advancing helicopters, and keep a bigger distance to the car in front not a simple feat in the congested streets of the city.

    "You don't know who the next target will be or where," said Sami Khader, a 35-year-old pharmacist, adding that he only uses his car in emergencies.

    In the West Bank, fugitives try to stay one step ahead of the soldiers, both in uniform and undercover, who are scouring towns and cities in arrest sweeps.

    In the city of Nablus, currently the target of the seventh large-scale Israeli operation in just eighteen months, many of the wanted men are running out of places to stay. At night, some of the fugitives are jumping from roof to roof until they find a place they deem safe enough to sleep.

    Three gunmen from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade militia took refuge for several weeks in Nablus' Raffidiyeh hospital, entering as visitors and being sneaked by a friend on the staff into a small room during the night. The hospital director eventually found out and urged Palestinian officials to get the wanted men out, to no avail.

    On Friday, Israeli troops spotted the gunmen on the roof of the hospital, killing one and wounding two in a shootout. On Tuesday, soldiers in Arab dress broke down the door to the intensive care unit and wheeled out two wounded men, one of whom was wanted for involvement in an Aug. 12 suicide bombing that killed an Israeli man in a supermarket in central Israel.

    Hamas is more tightly organized than the Al Aqsa Brigades, a loose band of gunmen, and has done better in arranging hiding places for its fugitives in the West Bank. One Nablus homeowner said he rented an apartment to a teacher, only to find out later that he was a front for a fugitive who was killed as explosives he handled blew up prematurely, wrecking the hideout.

    In the Gaza Strip, the Hamas political leaders Israel argues they are no different from the armed men and also involved in terror have not gone into hiding, but have cut down on their movements. Abdel Aziz Rantisi and Ismail Hanieh, two prominent leaders, have not reported to their jobs at the Islamic University in Gaza City since the killing of Abu Shanab.

    Writing on his web site Tuesday, Rantisi urged ordinary Palestinians to help the wanted men. "Protecting the fighters and to offer them support is part of our religion, is part of the holy war," he said.

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