Israeli court finds Hamas leader guilty in suicide attacks

A Tel Aviv court has convicted a Hamas leader from a West Bank town of masterminding two terror attacks against Israeli targets, including a 2002 suicide bombing at the Park Hotel in Netanya in which more than 30 people were killed.

Abbas al-Sayed, from Tul Karm, was found guilty of overseeing the Park Hotel attack, which also wounded more than 100 people, as well a suicide bombing attack at a Netanya mall four years ago, in which five people were killed and dozens injured.

Following the Park Hotel attack in 2002 the Israeli military reoccupied all Palestinian towns in the West Bank.

The district court found Al-Sayed guilty of the murder of 35 Israelis, as well as attempted murder, aggravated bodily harm and membership of a terror organisation. Additional counts in his conviction were obtaining arms and large sums of money from Hamas' headquarters in Syria.

Prosecutor Zmira Goldner said she intends to ask the court for 35 consecutive life terms, as well as additional jail sentences for the dozens wounded in the attacks, the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz reported.

Al-Sayed told the court that interrogators from Israel's Shin Bet security service had extracted confessions from him using torture. He rejected the prosecution's allegations, insisting that he was not a military commander, and that he had only ever organised parades and acted as a liaison with the press.

Al-Sayed, 39, who is married with two children, was arrested by security forces in May 2002. The court was told he sent suicide bomber Abdel Basset Uda to the Park Hotel dressed up as a woman, wearing a 10 kilogram explosives belt. He was also accused of sending a videotape of the suicide bomber who carried out the Netanya mall attack to the media.

Prosecutors said that al-Sayed had direct contact with Hamas headquarters in Syria and had received tens of thousands of dollars to fund the attacks, through bank transfers to his personal bank account in Tul Karm. It was also alleged that al-Sayed had purchased large quantities of arms, which he then gave to Hamas members for carrying out shooting attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.

The trial was held behind closed doors because, according to the authorities, confidential information on the working methods of the security establishment was discussed during the hearings. The sentencing will take place in November, the AKI reports.

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