April 10, 2007 / 6:33 AM / 12 years ago

Hamas planned Tel Aviv area bombing, says Israel

Palestinian Hamas militants take part in an armed exercise in Gaza April 8, 2007. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A Hamas militant drove a powerful car bomb into the Tel Aviv area last month but returned to the occupied West Bank without carrying out an attack, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said on Tuesday.

There was no immediate comment from Hamas, an Islamist group that heads the Palestinian unity government. Hamas last carried out a bombing in Israel in 2004, one of 60 such attacks the group launched since a Palestinian uprising that began in 2000.

In a statement, the Shin Bet said a member of a Hamas cell in Qalqilya, a West Bank city near central Israel, drove a commercial vehicle laden with about 100 kg (220 lb) of explosives into the Tel Aviv region last month.

“But the attack was not carried out and the vehicle was returned to Qalqilya,” the security service said, without elaborating, in a statement faxed to Reuters.

The vehicle later exploded in a “work accident” in Qalqilya, the Shin Bet said, using an Israeli term for a technical malfunction. The statement did not say if the blast caused any casualties.

Nineteen members of a Hamas cell in Qalqilya suspected of involvement in the planned bombing, timed for the Jewish Passover holiday, were arrested by Israeli security forces, the Shin Bet said. Their names were not released.

The Palestinian would-be suicide bomber, the Shin Bet said, was able to enter Israel through military checkpoints because he carried an Israeli identity card on the basis of his father’s marriage to an Israeli Arab.

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