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Israel: Kibbutz attack suspect arrested

Israeli brothers Noam, 4, left, and Maton Ohayoun, 5, were killed in the kibbutz attack
Israeli brothers Noam, 4, left, and Maton Ohayoun, 5, were killed in the kibbutz attack

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli forces Thursday arrested the man suspected of planning a deadly weekend attack on a northern Israeli kibbutz, after surrounding the West Bank house where he was holed up for several hours, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The action came hours after Israeli troops staged an incursion into Gaza and took six Palestinians into custody.

Muhammed Neifeh surrendered along with two other Fatah activists in the village of Shweike, north of Tulkarem, the IDF said.

"Muhammad Neifeh belongs to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and is responsible for sending the attackers to Kibbutz Metzer on Nov. 11 where five civilians were murdered and the attack in Hermesh on the Oct. 29 where three civilians were killed and others wounded," the IDF said.

Among those killed in the kibbutz attack were a mother and her two young sons. (Full story)

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement branded a terrorist group by the U.S., had claimed responsibility for the kibbutz attack.

The attack embarrassed Arafat, who had sent a delegation of Fatah leaders to Cairo for talks with leaders of the militant Islamic group Hamas about a plan to end suicide attacks in Israel. So far, Hamas has refused to agree to end the attacks. Sources in Cairo said a meeting between the two sides had ended without success but the two groups had agreed to talk again.

The IDF asked Neifeh to come out of the house with his hands up and in his underwear to make sure he was not armed, Israel Radio reported.

Earlier in the day, the other residents of the house left and called the Fatah movement to help mediate Neifeh's safe release from the house, according to Israel Radio.

Fatah contacted B'Tselem -- an Israeli human rights group -- and asked them to help mediate Neifeh's release.

"The response was that if he surrenders he will not be harmed, and after a short while he came out of the house and surrendered to the IDF forces," the IDF said.

Witnesses said the IDF then bulldozed the house where Neifeh had been hiding even though it belonged to Abdul Karim Shehadeh and not to Neifeh or his family.

In addition, medical services and witnesses said a 17-year-old Palestinian was killed by tank fire from Israeli troops firing at stone throwers in Nablus.

Also, two Palestinians, 13- and 14-years old, were wounded by bullets in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus while throwing stones at Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers, Palestinian medical services said.

In Gaza, Israeli helicopters, troops and tanks mounted a large incursion overnight, witnesses said.

The incursion began at Netzarim settlement and moved toward Gaza. It involved about 30 tanks and armored personnel carriers with air support from helicopter gunships, witnesses said.

Israeli forces picked up six people from a house, including four brothers, according to neighbors.

The Israelis caused some damage to the home, the neighbors said. Witnesses said two Palestinian security officers were wounded in the incursion.

Two wanted Palestinians were arrested during the overnight operation in Tel el-Hawa, a neighborhood just south of Gaza City, according to the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian security sources. Youssef Meqdiad, an officer in the Palestinian preventative security unit, and his brother Isham Meqdiad are blamed by the IDF for producing and transferring weapons to terror organizations over a long period of time.

The neighbors believe that Youssef Meqdiad is a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, but the man's family says he is a member of Fatah.

The neighborhood is known as a Hamas area, and the group's leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, lives there.

Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization, has been labeled by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization. The group's military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military.

After about an hour, the troops withdrew and headed back to Netzarim.

A message on loudspeakers from mosques urged people to go into the streets, a request that could have increased the risk for casualties in the military operation. Normally, residents are told to stay inside their homes when the Israeli army is conducting an operation.



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