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Mastermind of Bus Bombings: Sought Revenge For House Demolition

August 24, 1995

BALATA REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank (AP) _ To his sisters, the man accused of masterminding a ring of suicide bombers is a hero avenging the Israeli army’s destruction of the family home.

Not so to his father.

``Anyone who kills civilians is not a hero,″ said Attallah Issa, 61.

The divided family is a reflection of larger schisms within the Palestinian community about the attacks that have claimed 90 lives and wounded hundreds since Israel and the PLO began negotiating peace.

``I don’t condemn what my brother did,″ said Abdel Nasr Issa’s sister Tammam, 28, an English literature teacher. She said Israeli generals were treated as heroes for killing Palestinians ``so we consider him a hero.″

Samar Issa, 34, said her brother’s actions were a result of Israeli treatment of their family and Palestinians in general during the 27-year occupation of the West Bank.

In 1989, army bulldozers tore down the family house after Abdel Nasr was convicted of throwing firebombs at Israeli soldiers.

Only 50 yards down a narrow curving alley is a reminder of the loss: stone stairs that once led to the family’s first home, which was several times larger than the three-room house where a dozen family members now live.

``What do you expect from my brother after his house was demolished and Israelis were making problems for the Palestinians. This is a strong motive for such action,″ said Samar.

Abdel Nasr, arrested Saturday, was accused of sending suicide bombers to attack a bus in Tel Aviv on July 24 in which seven people were killed and Monday’s attack on two Jerusalem buses in which five people died.

He was described by the Shin Bet secret service as a disciple of Yehiya Ayyash, ``The Engineer,″ a chemist-turned-terrorist who built some of the bombs for suicide attacks and trained people like Abdel Nasr to build more.

Until his disappearance, Abdel Nasr, 27, was the head of the 1,000-member Islamic Bloc at An Najah University in nearby Nablus where he studied Islamic law. He had been on the run from Israeli authorities since December.

The elder Issa, himself a former activist, tried to locate his son to persuade him to abandon his commitment to Hamas, the Islamic militant group that has tried to wreck the Israel-PLO autonomy plan.

``I didn’t want him to join Hamas, and I told him all the time to leave Hamas, but he didn’t listen,″ said Attallah.

``I argued with him several times that this struggle is bigger than you, and he should think realistically.″

His father, 61, owner of a tile factory, said he tried to reason with his son using as an example his own experience as an activist for the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He served nearly 10 years in jail until 1978, and the army also seized his car, banned him from travel abroad and sealed the family home for three years.

``Victims are victims whether they are Jews or Arabs. If I condemn the killing among our civilians, I must condemn the killing among Israelis.″

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