Thousands mourn slain militant

Monday, November 26, 2001

NABLUS, West Bank -- To Israel, Hamas leader Mahmoud Abu Hanoud was a cold-blooded killer who masterminded the deaths of dozens of innocent civilians in suicide bombing attacks on a Tel Aviv disco, a Jerusalem pizzeria and a Jerusalem produce market.

But to the thousands of Palestinians who came to pay their respects in his home village just north of the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday, Abu Hanoud was a hero of the resistance against Israeli occupation, to be emulated both in life and in death.

The 34-year-old Abu Hanoud had been on the run from Israeli security forces since 1994, his family said, habitually traveling in a variety of disguises through remote mountain districts

He evaded two previous attempts to capture or kill him. In August 2000, he slipped away from Israeli special forces closing in on his hide-out, and in May he emerged with minor injuries from the rubble of a Palestinian Authority prison bombed by Israeli warplanes.

He had been serving a 12-year jail term handed down by a Palestinian security court in one of the Palestinian Authority's periodic clampdowns against the Hamas military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, which he headed in the West Bank. He was released after the Israeli air strike.

Luck ran out

Last Friday night his luck ran out. He died with two comrades in a hail of rockets and machine-gun fire from Israeli attack helicopters stalking his car along a deserted West Bank road.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Abu Hanoud was a "professional terrorist" who had planned to carry out more attacks and that Israel acted in self defense in killing him.

Israeli intelligence said he organized many suicide bomb attacks in Israel, starting in July, 1997, when a bomber killed 16 and wounded 169 in Jerusalem's open-air market. Two months later, three suicide attackers killed four and wounded more than 200 in downtown Jerusalem. He was indirectly involved in bloody attacks over the past year, the Israelis said, and was planning more.

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