Hamas bomb maker killed by rival, not by Israel, Palestinians say

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) Palestinian security officials cleared Israel on Monday in the death of the chief Hamas bombmaker, saying he was shot by a rival Hamas member who tried to cover up the slaying by disfiguring the body in a bomb blast.
Hamas leaders rejected the findings. They insisted Israel was responsible for the death of Mohiyedine Sharif, and said the Hamas military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, would probably make good on its threats to carry out revenge bombings in Israel.
Sharif’s death has strained ties between Hamas and Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the investigation proved that the Palestinian Authority was capable of fighting terrorism and that it must continue its efforts.
“That, I think, would pave the way for the resumption of the peace process,” Netanyahu said. But he also said he regretted that some Palestinian officials had been so quick to cast blame.
Sharif’s body was found at the scene of a car bomb blast in a garage in an industrial zone of the West Bank on March 29, and the circumstances of his death were unclear for days.
In response to recent Hamas threats, Israeli security forces have been on heightened alert, patrolling markets, malls and bus stations in Jerusalem and tightening controls at West Bank roadblocks.
Israel was expected to seal off the West Bank and Gaza Strip before the start Friday of the weeklong Jewish holiday of Passover to prevent possible attacks.
In Jerusalem, disturbances broke out in Arab neighborhoods after a Palestinian driver was shot to death by Israeli police after he refused to stop. Later, local residents began stoning police cars. Tires were burned and Israeli buses were stoned outside the Old City.