- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2006

1:34 p.m.

RAMALLAH, West Bank — A top Hamas military commander, linked by Israel to attacks that killed 78 persons, including five Americans, surrendered today when Israeli troops surrounded his hideout and threatened to demolish it with him inside.

The army said Ibrahim Hamed, 41, masterminded “some of the most deadly terror attacks against Israel in recent years,” including suicide bombings at a pool hall in central Israel, an outdoor cafe in Jerusalem and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where five Americans and four Israelis died.

Hamas, now the ruling party in the Palestinian areas, has observed an informal truce with Israel since February 2005.

Hamed has been on Israel’s wanted list since 1998, frequently evading capture. Hamed, a university graduate and influential leader, became the West Bank’s commander of Izzedine al Qassam, the Hamas military wing, in December 2003.

Before dawn today, a dozen jeeps and two armored personnel carriers surrounded his hideout, an apartment building in downtown Ramallah, just 200 yards from the home of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mohammed Azzam, 48, said he watched the arrest from his balcony facing the two-story building where Hamed was holed up. He said an army bulldozer rammed the door to the hideout, which consisted of two apartments over shops on the ground floor.

Using a loudspeaker, troops then called out Hamed’s name in Arabic. They told Hamed they would demolish the building with him inside if he didn’t surrender, Mr. Azzam said.

Hamed emerged before dawn, and stripped to his underwear after being ordered to do so by Israeli troops using a loudspeaker. He was handcuffed and taken to a nearby building.

Army officials said Hamed was armed and alone at the time of his capture. After Hamed was arrested, soldiers entered the building and blew out doors and windows, as a robot searched for explosives.

The two apartments were sparsely furnished with bamboo chairs and mattresses. A reporter touring the hideout saw two copies of Newsweek magazine on the floor.

Palestinian militants surrendering to troops are routinely asked to strip to ensure they don’t carry explosives.

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