Palestinian Police Arrest Top Islamic Leader
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Palestinian police arrested the head of the radical Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip as part of a crackdown on Muslim militants.
Sheikh Abdullah Shami, 40, leader of the Islamic Jihad, or Holy War, was arrested after midnight at his home in the Shejaeyeh neighborhood in Gaza city, PLO police said.
Police also arrested 20 more militants during the night, bringing to 180 the number of Islamic militants PLO leader Yasser Arafat’s police have arrested.
Shami is the spiritual leader of the Islamic Jihad, which rejects the Israel-PLO peace agreement. It advocates Islamic holy war to eliminate Israel and free the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Israeli occupation.
The group has claimed responsibility for a number of deadly attacks inside and outside the Jewish state.
Anticipating a crackdown, Islamic Jihad leaders went into hiding immediately following last Friday’s suicide bombing that killed three Israeli officers and wounded 16 Palestinian and Israeli police.
Killed were Lt. Yehezhkel Sapir, Lt. Yotam Rahat, and Capt. Dror Elad.
That attack coincided with a mass protest by thousands of supporters in Gaza City in which Islamic Jihad declared responsibility for the attack. Shami, as the main speaker, trod on an Israeli flag as armed followers fired into the air.
The group was protesting the killing of Hani Abed, an Islamic Jihad leader whose death in a car bombing was blamed on Israel.
Israel has demanded that Arafat take decisive measures against the Muslim militants and has threatened to slow down peace talks if attacks continued.