Amid efforts to rekindle peace talks, the Palestinians said Monday they had saved Israeli lives by discovering a Hamas bomb factory filled with explosives and disguises that allowed bombers to pose as Israelis.
Israel, however, seemed less than impressed.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said further peace talks depend on stronger moves by Yasser Arafat not only against the militant Hamas group - but against Palestinian police also accused of planning attacks on Israel.
Palestinian police Col. Kamal Sheikh said three Palestinians, including the owner of an apartment that housed the bomb factory, were arrested Sunday night in Beit Sahour village near Bethlehem.
“We have prevented a massacre,” said Sheikh, whose men discovered the site while investigating the death of an apparent bombmaker last week. “The ones who were running this factory planned bombings and to destroy the agreement we have with the Israelis.”
The apartment contained 65 pounds of explosives, wired to timers and ready to use, as well as chemicals and other materials for making bombs. Also found were an Israeli army uniform, a Jewish skull-cap and prayer shawl, wigs and false beards - apparently used as disguises for attacks in Israel.
Hamas, a militant group whose goal is Islamic theocracy in Palestine, opposes Arafat’s peace deal with Israel and has waged a campaign of attacks against Israelis in an effort to derail it.
Netanyahu reacted coolly to the Palestinians’ find, telling Likud Party colleagues he “would like to see these efforts made continuously and not only as a result of pressure after the exposure of the gravest activity by the Palestinian police.”
Israel arrested four Palestinian policemen last week and accused them of planning attacks against Israelis. Israel claims high-ranking officers were involved in the plot.
Palestinians deny the allegations.
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