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March 21, 2003

Israeli Forces Arrest Hamas Commander

- Israeli forces arrested a top Hamas commander and 13 other Palestinians overnight, the military said Friday as troops maintained a tight closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israeli special forces surrounded a house in Qalqiliya and arrested Raed Hutri, commander of Hamas forces in the West Bank town, along with his deputy, the military said Friday. Israel Radio said Hutri planned a suicide bombing in front of the seaside Dolphinarium night club that killed 21 people in Tel Aviv on June 1, 2001.

Palestinian security officials said Hutri recruited his nephew to carry out the suicide attack, but was not a senior Hamas figure.

The military said soldiers arrested 12 other suspected militants in the West Bank, including seven in the Old City of Nablus.

In the village of Doha, near Bethlehem, Israeli forces destroyed the house of Mohammed Dar-Yasin, who tried to carry out a suicide bombing in the nearby Jewish settlement of Efrat in February last year but was shot and killed.[more]