JAFFA – The Israeli media today portrayed the assassinated planner of last week’s Jerusalem shooting massacre as a member of the Islamic Jihad terror group even though he is a well-known activist from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization, WND has learned.

The U.S. considers Fatah to be moderate. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government has been holding regular negotiations with Abbas’ officials in line with last November’s U.S.-backed Annapolis Summit, which seeks to create a Fatah-led Palestinian state by the end of the year.

The Israel Defense Forces today killed Muhammad Shehadi, who has been identified by security officials here as the planner of last week’s terrorist shooting in which eight yeshiva students were murdered.

Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s leading daily, identified Shehadi as “an Islamic Jihad operative,” who planned last week’s shooting. Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported Shehadi was “the commander of Islamic Jihad in the Bethlehem area,” and was killed along with “two other Islamic Jihad members.” Israel’s Channel 2 identified Shehadi as Islamic Jihad.

None of the Israeli media reports described Shehadi as working for Fatah.

While Shehadi temporarily worked for Islamic Jihad, Shehadi is a well-known Fatah activist who ran unsuccessfully in the 2006 Palestinian elections as a local Fatah legislator from Bethlehem.

According to senior security officials speaking to WND, Shehadi was killed today after the Israeli military received intelligence he was scheduled to attend a secret Fatah congress planning meeting in Bethlehem. Shehadi was killed along with Ahmed Dalbul, a Bethlehem-area leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah’s declared military wing. Dalbul, accused by the IDF of planning recent terror attacks, had been granted amnesty by Olmert last June.

Shehadi’s Bethlehem area home was bulldozed by Israel last week, and he had been in hiding since.

Hours after last week’s Jerusalem shooting, WND exclusively identified Shehadi as the planner of the attack.

According to Palestinian security officials familiar with Shehadi, after losing the 2006 election as a Fatah leader, Shehadi worked for about six months for the Islamic Jihad terror group but then switched back to Fatah.

A senior Palestinian security official speaking to WND today said Shehadi continued to work with Islamic Jihad sporadically but he was more identified with Fatah.

“He was Fatah,” said the security official. “In the last few weeks, he was working only with Fatah. Islamic Jihad might consider him among their men in Bethlehem, but it’s absolutely wrong for Haaretz to label him as the Islamic Jihad commander.”

“He would go wherever the money was,” said the Palestinian security official. “He thought he could get more money from Islamic Jihad, so he worked for them for a few months but then switched back to Fatah because he didn’t like his Islamic Jihad salary.”

Israeli security sources said Shehadi previously assisted in terrorist attacks carried out from the Bethlehem area by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Last Thursday, a terrorist gunman infiltrated the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, located near the entrance to Jerusalem, and fired hundreds of rounds of bullets at students studying in the building’s main library, killing eight students and wounding about a dozen.

Scenes of the yeshiva’s blood-soaked floors and of bodies being lined up outside the yeshiva’s library were broadcast on Israeli TV. Prayer books, torahs and Talmud texts stained with blood were carried from the building.

The head of the ZAKA emergency services – among the first to arrive at the yeshiva following the attack – described the scene as a “slaughterhouse.”

The fatalities have been identified as Yochai Lipschitz, 18, of Jerusalem; Yonatan Yitzchak Eldar, 16, of Shiloh; Yonadav Chaim Hirschfeld, 19, of Kochav Hashahar; Neriah Cohen, 15, of Jerusalem; Roey Roth, 18, of Elkana; Segev Pniel Avihayil, 15, of Neveh Daniel; Avraham David Moses, 16, of Efrat; and Maharata Trunoch, 26, of Ashdod.

To interview Aaron Klein, contact M. Sliwa Public Relations by e-mail, or call 973-272-2861 or 212-202-4453.


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