Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
March 18, 2008
On March 12, 2008 , four wanted terrorists belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) were shot dead in Bethlehem by the Israeli security forces. The four comprised the PIJ operative leadership in Bethlehem and were armed with rifles and pistols as the Israeli security forces attempted to arrest them. The four had taken part in terrorist attacks in which many Israelis were killed. The body of wanted terrorist Muhammad Shehadeh, wrapped in the Hezbollah flag (Palestinian TV, March 13)
Overview 1. On March 12, 2008 , four wanted terrorists belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) were shot dead in Bethlehem by the Israeli security forces. The four comprised the PIJ operative leadership in Bethlehem and were armed with rifles and pistols as the Israeli security forces attempted to arrest them. The four had taken part in terrorist attacks in which many Israelis were killed.
2. The four killed wanted terrorists: a. Muhammad Shehadeh Abed Ta'amri, born in 1963; b. Ahmed Khalil Salem Balboul, born in 1960; c. Imad Hussein Mahmoud Kamel, born in 1973; d. Issa Marzouq Saleh Zawahira, born in 1972.
3. Muhammad Shehadeh was the head of the PIJ terrorist-operative network in Bethlehem (Al-Quds Brigades). He was wanted for more than eight years for his participation in several terrorist attacks in which many Israelis were killed and injured. The PIJ terrorist-operative network to which Shehadeh and the three other wanted terrorists belonged had been involved in extensive terrorist activity since the beginning of the Palestinian terrorism campaign against Israel (the second intifada). In recent years, the network continued its activities. Muhammad Shehadeh and his network had direct contact with the PIJ headquarters in Syria , which sent them instructions for activity.
4. On December 29, 2007 , Muhammad Shehadeh and Ahmed al-Balboul granted an interview near the Church of Nativity , criticizing the Fatah Amnesty Plan.1 They said the plan was intended to cause dissension among the operatives and embarrass the Palestinian Authority. According to Muhammad Shehadeh, only suicide warriors “have the right to grant a pardon to the occupation” (Ma'an News Agency, December 19, 2007 ).
Muhammad Shehadeh in an interview granted to Infolive reporter Firas Hamed a few months ago (Infolive, March 17)
Muhammad Shehadeh’s association with Hezbollah
5.In the past, Muhammad Shehadeh told London-based daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat that he joined the Shi'ite faith (even though he belonged to a Sunni family) and formed ties with Hezbollah. This happened in the wake of meetings he held in Lebanon when he was deported to Marj al-Zuhur (along with Hamas deportees) in 1992 (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, March 14).
6. It should be noted that during Muhammad Shehadeh's funeral procession (March 13), his body was wrapped in the Hezbollah flag (see photograph). The office of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah held a telephone conversation with Muhammad Shehadeh's widow, saying Hezbollah would guarantee his family (Ma'an News Agency, March 14, 2008 ).
The funeral procession of the four killed terrorists; Shehadeh's body is wrapped in the Hezbollah flag (Al-Jazeera, March 13).
Reactions to the killing of the terrorists
7. Thousands of people from Bethlehem and its surrounding villages and refugee camps took part in the funeral procession of the four wanted terrorists (March 13). The Bethlehem region went on a general strike for the duration of the funeral.
8. Palestinian Islamic Jihad spokesmen condemned the killing of the terrorists, threatening a painful response deep inside Israeli territory. In an announcement published by the Al-Quds Brigades, Shehadeh is described as one of “the most prominent commanders and warriors of the Al-Quds Brigades”, threatening that their response would “shake the very foundations of Israel” (Qudsnews website, March 12). Immediately after the terrorists' death was announced, PIJ terrorist operatives in the Gaza Strip launched rockets on population centers in the western Negev (the PIJ rocket fire will be described in the weekly summary of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation).
9. Hamas spokesman Sami al-Zuhri said that the killing of the four terrorists would “not go unpunished”, and that Israel would pay a heavy price. He added that Israel was operating in Judea and Samaria since it was unable to break the “resistance” in the Gaza Strip (Paltoday, March 12). Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya (who became acquainted with Shehadeh during their mutual stay in Marj al-Zuhur, Lebanon ) called the four terrorists' families and gave a speech over the telephone in the mourning tent. Haniya stressed that they would be avenged, and even promised Muhammad Shehadeh's family that his government would cover the costs of rebuilding his house (Ma'an, March 14).
10. Palestinian Authority seniors visited the mourning tent in Bethlehem . One of the visitors, PA Economy Minister Muhammad Hassouna, instructed his ministry to start rebuilding Muhammad Shehadeh's house as soon as possible (Ma'an, March 15). Such instruction can be seen as an attempt to match Hamas and Hezbollah's promises to assist Shehadeh's family and the families of the other killed operatives.
1 In July 2007, as one of its goodwill gestures towards the Palestinian Authority, Israel decided to halt its counterterrorist activities against 170 wanted terrorists belonging to Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (the terrorist-operative wing of Fatah), provided they pledged to abandon terrorism, surrender their arms, and commit to certain restrictions during a long-term probation period.