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Israel Captures Top Islamic Jihad Leader - 2003-10-01

Israeli forces report they have captured the top leader of the Islamic Jihad in the West Bank. The group, which organizes terrorist operations, has vowed to retaliate with more attacks.

Israeli commandos swept into the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin and arrested Sheikh Bassam Sa'adi.

Israeli officials said sniffer dogs were used to track him down as he hid underneath a car parked outside a mosque.

The operation against Sheikh Sa'adi, described as the top leader of the Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, also included two dozen armed vehicles and two attack helicopters.

Israel views him as one of the most sought-after Palestinian fugitives. He had managed to elude capture for more than two years.

Israeli officials say he had become the main organizer of the Islamic Jihad's operations and its leading spokesman in the West Bank, after other members of the group had been killed or arrested in Israeli raids last year. His twin sons were killed at age 21 in separate gun battles with Israeli troops last year.

His arrest immediately drew threats of more violence.

Officials of the Islamic Jihad, which has carried out numerous suicide bombings and other terror attacks, said Israel would, "pay a dear price for the capture of their leader."

In other military raids, Israeli troops arrested 14 other suspected Palestinian militants near the West Bank cities of Nablus, Ramallah, and Hebron.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli troops searching for underground weapons smuggling channels near the Egyptian border blew up one suspect tunnel. The Israeli army said it also destroyed several nearby buildings that had been used to conceal weapons and by Palestinian snipers to fire on Israeli troops.