By: Jesse Lempel
A major terror attack has been thwarted as Palestinian Authority security forces arrested three fugitive Palestinians on Saturday, April 9th after a ten-day manhunt, Palestinian sources report. The men were reportedly found with a sub-machine gun and multiple grenades.
The Palestinian daily Al-Quds reported that the three Palestinians—Mohammed Abdullah Harb, 23, Haytham Sayaj, 19, and Basel al-Araj, 33—vanished together in Ramallah under suspicious circumstances on March 31st, apparently dumping their phones in trash cans.
Their disappearance launched a manhunt that finally ended on Saturday when they were spotted near a spring in the village of Arura, north of Ramallah, Palestinian police spokesman Louie Arzikat told the news site Al-Hadath. The three suspects were then arrested by Palestinian police and security forces and taken for questioning.
Palestinian investigators assess that the three men belonged to a Hamas cell, according to the Israeli news site Walla.
Abdullah Harb, the father of one of the suspects and a Sharia judge in Jenin, told Al-Quds that he had received a phone call from Palestinian security officials informing him that his son was alive and in custody, but that he has not yet been able to speak to him.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said in a statement that the Palestinian Authority security forces are “responsible for the arrest of the three young men.”
Hamas has repeatedly condemned the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas for security cooperation with Israel. Hamas spokesman Husam Badran released a statement on Saturday blasting the PA for “betraying the Jerusalem Intifada” by cooperating with Israeli security forces and for handing “pro-Intifada activists” over to Israel.
Abbas, for his part, touts his collaboration with Israel. He told an Israeli journalist just two weeks ago that Palestinian security agents go into schools and search students’ backpacks for knives.
“We found 70 students with knives in their bags in one school,” Abbas said. “We tell them, ‘We don’t want you to die. We want you to live and other people to live.’”