Israeli security forces today demolished an Arab house in the occupied West Bank and bricked up four apartments after uncovering what authorities termed one of the most active Palestinian terrorist rings operating in Israel.
Three teachers in West Bank schools were arrested in connection with a series of bombings that killed at least four persons and possibly seven and wounded dozens more, Israeli Army officials said.
Authorities said the suspects were involved in numerous bombings, including one in Netanya on Jan. 28 that killed three civilians and injured 30, and a March 23 bombing in Jerusalem that killed one man. One of the suspects is believed responsible for an explosion in Tiberias last month that killed three persons and injured scores of school children waiting at a bus stop.
"It was one of the most active, dangerous terrorist cells we've found. Nobody knows all of the attacks they were involved in," said an Israeli military official.
The suspects' houses were demolished by bulldozers or sealed as part of a long-standing deterrent policy that attempts to apply pressure on Arab families to discourage members from belonging to banned organizations.
Officials said the ring was unusual in that nearly all its members were women, trained in Syria by the Fatah branch of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
"Two of them are beautiful girls who had been assigned to carry the explosives, presumably because they could get by checkpoints more easily," an Army source said. "Sometimes, when you see a beautiful girl at a barrier, people don't search that carefully. They just smile a little."
In the village of Jania, near Ramallah, a house owned by Ataf Ahmed Yusef, a teacher, was demolished by Army bulldozers after a search turned up a cache of exposives, officials said. Yusef, the Army said, was arrested May 26 when she attempted to place a timebomb in Jerusalem's central bus station.
In Ramallah and adjacent Biereh, apartments belonging to two more women were sealed with bricks, and two apartments rented by an accomplice were similarly sealed. Authorities said the accomplice, Bamal Ahmed Yassin Zaid, 24, held officer rank in the Fatah and in 1975 served a prison sentence here for belonging to an illegal organization.
Zaid has not been apprehended and may have fled the country, officals said.
An Isaeli Army source said demolishing houses owned by terrorists "has proven itself to be one of the most effective weapons we have. It causes intense family pressure on an individual not to engage in such acts."
As an example, he cited the case three months ago when an Arab showed up at a West Bank Army post carrying a pail of explsovies he said he had found in his house. The man gave the name of his 17-year-old son, saying he did not want his house destroyed.
In another development, an Israeli Navy patrol last night intercepted what authorities termed a terrorist boat headed south in the Mediterranean Sea near the Lebanese border and sank it, apparently killing everyone on board.
Officials said the rubber speedboat, which normally carries three to six persons, was encountered by a Navy missile ship and that the boat's occupants opened fire on the Israeli vessel. The Army said two bodies were found.
Sources said the crew members apparently carried Soviet-made rockets with the intention of firing them on land targets. The rocket has a range of about 12 miles, and has been used by Palestinians against Israeli settlements from across the Lebanese border.