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Fatah threatens revenge for death of Zubeidi's deputy

Mahmud Abu Khalifa, 25, the Aksa Brigade commander in Jenin, was killed along with two of his assistants when a missile fired from an airforce helicopter struck the car they were riding in the center of Jenin on Monday afternoon.

Khalifa was considered to be the deputy and right hand man of Zakariya Zubeidi, the Aksa Brigade commander in Samaria.

Members of the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin threatened revenge for the killings as the men were buried in Jenin Tuesday.

"Our revenge will come in the next 24 hours, and it will be like nothing you've ever seen before," Fatah members threatened, as reported by Army Radio.

The defense establishment is fortifying security forces with the approach of the High Holy Days. The full closure that was imposed on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip last Friday will continue until the end of the holidays.

The two brigade members killed with Khalifa were identified as Amjad Husni Aref Ayoub,24 and Yamen Faisel Abed al Wahab Ayoub,18. Officials said that Khalifa and his aides were meeting to discuss operational plans when they were hit. Officials noted that the three and other members - in order to evade detection by security forces - often conducted meetings in mobile vehicles.

Zubeidi vowed revenge and told reporters "this attack will not pass in silence and our response will be in Tel Aviv in the next 24 hours."

According to security officials, Khalifa was the "brain" or mastermind behind numerous attacks and maintained direct contact with Hizbullah operatives abroad, who sent funds to support the group's terrorist activities.

On August 30, Israel botched an attempt to target Khalifa when a missile fired from a helicopter hit a house and not the vehicle the he was riding in near the Jenin refugee camp and seriously wounded Yara Abed, aged nine, when the missile landed in her bedroom.

According to security officials, Khalifa was involved in the planning of a number of suicide bomb attacks that were to be launched inside Israel and was responsible for the bomb attack at the Kalandia checkpoint on August 11 in which two Palestinians were killed and six border policemen wounded. Khalifa and Zubeidi supplied the terrorists who carried out the attack the 25-kilogram bomb that was hidden in a baby carriage and was detonated near the checkpoint.

Security officials said that in March this year, security forces thwarted an attack by Khalifa, who planned to rig a truck with explosives and blow it up next to an Israeli bus transporting school children or IDF soldiers somewhere in northern Samaria.

Other cell members under Khalifa's command who were arrested by security forces revealed to officials details of the planned attack.

Khalifa was recruited to the Fatah-Tanzim in 2002 and in 2003 was deputy to former Tanzim commander Muntasser Abu Ilion, who was arrested by security forces in January this year.

After Ilion's arrest, Zubeidi was appointed the senior commander of the Tanzim, and Khalifa was appointed the head of the Jenin infrastructure.

Khalifa was responsible for recruiting dozens of activists and also supervised and instructed military training courses for brigade members. According to security officials Khalifa was involved in attempts to launch suicide bomb attacks in Israel and since the beginning of this year dispatched at least six suicide bombers to blow up in Israel, but all were arrested by security forces before they succeeded in carrying out the attacks.

Khalifa also dispatched numerous cell members to perpetrate bomb and shooting attacks, including attacks on IDF soldiers deployed in the Jenin area, nearby Israeli communities and Israeli vehicles traveling on northern Samaria highways. On July 6 last year an Israeli civilian was killed when shots were fired at an Israeli vehicle near Yabed close to Jenin. Another Israeli civilian was killed in July this year in a shooting attack in the same area.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, on the road between Carmel and the Zief Junction south of Hebron last night, terrorists shot at an Israeli bus transporting 40 youths affiliated with the Bnei Akiva movement who were distributing apples and honey to soldiers deployed in the Hebron area. No one was wounded in the attack but several bullets caused damage to the bus.

Also in the evening, sappers blew up two pipe bombs containing 30 kilograms of explosives found near El Bireh east of Ramallah. Soldiers acting on intelligence information uncovered a stockpile of weapons in a Hebron home during the day. The stash included an M 16 rifle, 18 ammunition clips, automatic weapons, telescopic sites and four crates of bullets.

In Nablus, security forces arrested Yusra Mohammed Abu, a female fugitive and member of the Fatah who planned to launch an attack inside Israel. In the village Klil south of Nablus, soldiers arrested two Palestinians who they suspect fired shots at troops deployed in the village earlier in the morning.

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