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Israel Police Chief Accuses Hamas

July 22, 1998

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel’s police minister has accused the Islamic militant group Hamas of involvement in what Israel has described as an attempted suicide bombing in Jerusalem this week.

In the incident Sunday, a Palestinian man was burned while in a van parked in downtown Jerusalem, possibly while trying to ignite 150 gallons of flammable liquids, nails and gas canisters that were in the vehicle, police said. The materials did not ignite.

The driver, 30-year-old Jalal Rummana from the West Bank refugee camp of Al Amari, remained hooked up to a respirator in a Jerusalem hospital Tuesday with burns on his head and upper body.

Minister of Public Security Avigdor Kahalani accused Hamas on Tuesday. Remarking that the militant group was bent on Israel’s destruction and had carried out attacks in the past, Kahalani said: ``It’s fair to assume that a person does not load up a van ... and go alone on such a mission.″

Rummana’s relatives said Tuesday they did not believe he was involved in a plot to carry out an attack in Jerusalem.

They said the van’s load was intended for a U.N. building project in the West Bank town of Jericho that was run by Rummana’s construction company.

The liquid stored in plastic containers in the van was diesel fuel for operating a cement mixer and the gas canisters were intended for construction workers so they could cook at the site, said Rummana’s cousin, Jamal.

Israeli police spokeswoman Linda Menuhin said Tuesday that police remained convinced that Rummana had planned to blow up the van in a terror attack. ``It was not an innocent assembly of materials,″ Menuhin told The Associated Press.

She said she could not elaborate because of a court-ordered partial news blackout.

Menuhim noted that Rummana had served 20 months in an Israeli jail in the early 1990s for membership in Hamas. Rummana’s mother, Ruweida, said her son stopped his political activities four years ago, after he became the family’s main provider following the death of her husband.

Hamas has not claimed responsibility for Sunday’s incident.

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