JERUSALEM -- Qis Adwan, Israeli intelligence said, had loaded explosives into the vest of a suicide bomber headed to Netanya's Park Hotel. Nasser Aweis, the Israeli information indicated, had handed an AK-47 assault rifle to a recruit who would use it on patrons at a Tel Aviv restaurant. And Thabet Mardawai, the files showed, had killed two Israeli soldiers with a machine pistol.
Now they and hundreds of other Palestinians are dead or captured, the yield of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's 24-day military operation that swept through cities and refugee camps across the West Bank in an effort to crush what Sharon termed the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure.
Using everything from warplanes to bulldozers, Israel arrested 1,500 people, detained nearly 3,000 and killed at least 250 Palestinians, according to army tallies. Among those caught or killed were about 35 key organizers and planners of violent attacks on Israel and a larger group of street-level militants involved in the operations, according to Israeli intelligence analysts, army officials and Palestinian observers.
Israel has called the mission a success that exceeded officials' hopes and stopped the suicide bombings. In Jenin alone, army officials said, soldiers intercepted 10 suicide-bomb volunteers who'd made farewell videotapes.
"We dismantled the infrastructure of suicide bombers," Sharon proclaimed.
However, many Israeli experts have acknowledged failures and holes in the operation that allowed some escapes. They admitted the effect on terrorist operations is likely to be short-lived and those who were eliminated can soon be replaced.
Palestinians went further. They said the destruction and death from Israel's attacks will produce a groundswell of volunteers seeking revenge and ready to die in the effort. "Did they get some key players? Yes," said an activist from Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization who asked not to be named. "Will it stop the bombings? No. It will only bring more."
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