Four suicide bombers identified as West Bank residents

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JERUSALEM — The General Security Service has identified four of the five suicide bombers who blew themselves up in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market on July 30 and the Rehov Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall on Sept. 4.

The two terrorist attacks killed 20 and wounded hundreds.

The four men — Mouaya Jarara, 23; Bashar Zoualha, 24; Tawfik Yassin, 25; and Yusef Shouli, 23 — were all residents of Azira Shamalya, a village of 7,000 near Nablus.

The Israel Defense Force put the village under curfew Tuesday night.

Azira Shamalya is in Area B, which is under Israeli security control. However, security officials believe those who planned the bombings and assisted the terrorists reside in Area A, which is under full Palestinian control.

Security officials are still trying to determine the identity of the fifth suicide bomber.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received final confirmation of the bombers' identities Tuesday night.

"I want to praise the General Security Service, which together with the IDF, police and the biology department of the Institute for Forensic Medicine revealed the identities of four of the five suicide bombers," Netanyahu said.

The Palestinian Authority arrested the four in February and March 1996. They escaped from the Palestinian prison in Nablus six months later.

Following their escape they were declared fugitives and sought by the GSS for allegedly shooting at IDF vehicles in Ein Bidan near Nablus in December 1996.

Their names also appeared on a list of 88 Hamas and Islamic activists handed to the Palestinian Authority by Israel seeking their arrest shortly after the Mahane Yehuda bombing.

National Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon said Tuesday night that "if the GSS' successful investigation proves anything, it is how we must never again rely on the cooperation of the Palestinian Authority to bestow security upon us.

"Had the Palestinian Authority done its part, the perpetrators in question would have been behind bars long ago and many innocent lives would have been spared.

Sharon added that GSS must never again be dependent on the Palestinians as it has been because such reliance weakens Israel's security.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat's aide Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel for purposely misleading the Palestinians.

Abbas claimed that the Palestinian Authority's statements declaring the terrorists were from abroad stemmed from information from U.S. and Israeli officials. He also stressed that Azira Shamalya is in Area B, under Israeli security control.

Faisal Husseini, the Palestinian Authority's Jerusalem representative, said that mass arrests are not the best way of fighting terror and protecting Israeli security.

"The way is to implement the Oslo agreement. We do not agree with the arrest campaign in Azira and we will be ready to protect security in Area B when it comes under our control."

He added that it was Israel, not the Palestinian Authority, which first said the Mahane Yehuda bombers came from abroad.

The identification of the bombers came several days after heavy censorship had been imposed on all details of the investigation.

The families of the four bombers expressed disbelief and amazement on hearing the news. Shouli's father told Channel 1 on Tuesday night that security forces had taken blood samples from family members 10 days ago.

The village's stores were closed Tuesday and village residents expressed shock that the four men had carried out the terrorist attacks.

"Everyone is too frightened to go outside," said Amer Amer, a 40-year-old dentist.