Israel, Palestinians cooperating in bomb investigation

JERUSALEM — Israeli and Palestinian security officials are working together to apprehend those responsible for this week's failed van-bombing in Jerusalem.

It marks the first time the two sides have cooperated on security in months, according to Israeli news reports.

Israel has blamed Hamas for Sunday's attempted terror attack, which occurred just hours before senior Israeli and Palestinian officials met in Tel Aviv to resume peace talks.

Pure luck prevented the bombing on Jaffa Road, near Zion Square, as the van — packed with gas canisters, flammable liquids and pounds of nails — caught fire before it was detonated.

The Palestinian Authority has interrogated Hamas activists in the West Bank refugee camp where the driver of the explosive-laden van lived.

Public Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani said Tuesday that the driver, Jallal Rumaneh, a known Hamas activist, had not acted alone.

"It is safe to assume that one does not mount that amount of material on a car on his own. He must have partners," said Kahalani.

Police and firefighters discovered the explosives after they were called to Zion Square, where the van had caught fire.

The driver, who was severely burned in the fire, was being treated at a Jerusalem hospital and has been unable to talk to interrogators.

Israeli police do not yet know how the van entered Jerusalem, but the investigation has found that the vehicle was rented and fitted with fake Israeli license plates, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported.

Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip have denied any knowledge of the planned attack and Israeli security observers voiced doubt that the operation was an attempt by the fundamentalist group's leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, to challenge Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

The Jerusalem Post cited unnamed Palestinian security sources and Hamas activists as saying that the incident might have been an accident involving a Palestinian contractor whose materials caught fire while he was parked in Jerusalem.

The Post's sources said Rumaneh, of the Amari refugee camp outside El Bireh, apparently did not intend to commit a suicide car bomb attack in downtown Jerusalem.

Based on an investigation of Rumaneh's family, they said the 30-year-old father of three was heading into Jerusalem with materials required for a construction job.

The gas canisters in the back were probably meant for his home or that of another family member, they said.