NABLUS, West Bank – Two female Palestinian university students, under investigation for allegedly planning to carry out a twin suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, have surrendered to the Israeli army, military officials said Thursday.
The women, Adilah and Lina Jawabre, both 21, turned themselves in to Israeli authorities after relatives informed them the army was looking for them.
Family members said both women denied involvement in planning an attack and that they surrendered because they have nothing to hide. However, military officials said the women confessed they planned to carry out an attack.
Adilah and Lina are distant relatives and childhood friends. They grew up in the same village, went to the same school, and now both are seniors studying education at the Al Najah University (search) in the West Bank city of Nablus.
Ayman Jawabre, Lina's brother, said Israeli troops came to the family home early Wednesday, demanding to see his sister. Soldiers told him his sister is wanted for security reasons and might be involved in planning an attack in Israel.
The fathers of Lina and Adilah went to fetch their daughters from university on Wednesday and delivered them to the army, the family said.
Military officials said the women were recruited by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (search), a militant PLO faction, to carry out a double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv last week.
The military said the mastermind was DFLP operative Hani Akkad (search), who was killed in a gunbattle with Israeli troops in Nablus on Wednesday.
The officials said the two women turned themselves in just hours after Akkad was killed and confessed to their plans to carry out a suicide bombing.
Israel's army chief, meanwhile, said in an interview broadcast Thursday that the military is moving ahead quickly with preparations for a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four small West Bank settlements.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon initially said the pullout should be completed by the end of next year, but has been trying to accelerate implementation, apparently in part because of growing opposition by settlers and hardline politicians.
Under Sharon's plan of "unilateral disengagement" from the Palestinians, about 8,500 settlers would be removed from their homes.
Earlier this week, Sharon's inner Cabinet approved the payment of large cash advances to settlers who leave their homes voluntarily, ahead of a September 2005 deadline.
The government hopes to empty out the settlements as much as possible in such a way, in order to reduce friction when the last settlers are removed by force.
The army chief, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, said the military is waiting for an order from political leaders to move forward.
"We are in a very advanced stage of planning and carrying out the plan of disengagement," Yaalon told Israel Radio. "We are waiting for a decision by the political leaders regarding the timing of implementation."