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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

PLO Court Convicts Hamas Bomber

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Yasser Arafat approved a sentence of life with hard labor Wednesday for the Islamic militant charged with masterminding three of the four suicide bombings that killed dozens in Israel.


Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, is under intense pressure from Israel to help crush Hamas militants operating within PLO-run territory.


Mohammed Abu Wardeh was convicted Tuesday in the West Bank town of Jericho of plotting terrorist attacks. The hasty trial -- which he did not attend though he is in Palestinian police custody -- apparently was intended to block any extradition request by Israel.


In an interview that appeared clearly orchestrated by Palestinian authorities, Abu Wardeh told Palestinian radio Tuesday that the bombings were a mistake and have hurt the Palestinian people. And he appealed to Hamas' military wing to "serve the interests of the Palestinian people" and "stop any military action."


The fourth bomber, who killed 13 in central Tel Aviv on Monday, was from the PLO-run Gaza Strip, Israel army radio reported Wednesday, and was allegedly driven to the bombing site by an Israeli Arab. Neither man was identified.


The Israeli has been detained since Monday night, the radio said, quoting Israeli police sources.


Abu Wardeh, 21, is a second-year student at the UN-run Ramallah Teachers' Training College in Ramallah. He was arrested Sunday night and accused of recruiting three of the four bombers who struck between Feb. 25 and March 4, killing themselves and 57 others.


Palestinian security sources said Mohammed Abu Wardeh received his instructions in coded messages from Hamas leaders abroad. Israel TV said his handlers were based in Damascus.


?South African Jews were outraged on Wednesday that President Nelson Mandela was willing to meet representatives of Hamas "whose hands are dripping with blood," Reuters reported.


A spokeswoman for South Africa's Foreign Ministry said the department was aware of media reports that Hamas members had been invited to a conference that reportedly would be in South Africa next month. She later said the department did know who would take part inthe conference.