Islamic extremists preparing a bomb set off an accidental blast Sunday that tore through their hideout, killing six people, including a top militant on Israel’s most-wanted list.
Angered by the explosion, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat ordered an arrest sweep against Hamas, the group to which the militants belonged.
“Round them all up!” Arafat shouted at police commanders at his Gaza City headquarters.
Hamas blamed Israel and the PLO for the bombing and vowed “swift and painful” retaliation.
The group has waged suicide and shooting attacks against Israel to thwart the 1993 peace agreement with the PLO.
The 2:45 p.m. blast blew out the walls and gutted the second-floor apartment in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, a fundamentalist stronghold. A police bomb expert walked from the apartment clutching three canisters studded with nails, used to enhance a bomb’s killing power.
Fumes from a mysterious white powder, believed used to make bombs, overcame 40 people, including five policemen who fainted when a bag from the wrecked building was opened.
Brig. Gen. Ghazi Jabali, head of PLO police in Gaza City, said the wrecked apartment amounted to “an explosives factory and an operations room for Hamas.”