RAMALLAH, West Bank – Marwan Barghouti, a top aide to Yasser Arafat and an outspoken advocate of continued suicide bombings and terror attacks against Israel, was captured by Israeli forces here Monday.
Barghouti, 41, was arrested at the house of Fatah official Ziad Abu Ain, who also was arrested.
Barghouti, on Israel's wanted list for allegedly masterminding terror attacks, is a top militant leader in Arafat's Fatah movement and is sometimes mentioned as a possible successor to the Palestinian leader.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Fox News that Israel will put Barghouti on trial.
"Like in every democratic country, he will be tried in Israel and put in prison," Sharon said.
West Bank security chief Jibril Rajoub, a Palestinian, confirmed that Barghouti had been arrested and warned Israel not to harm him.
"Killing or humiliating him will bring catastrophes for Israel and will expand the circle of violence," Rajoub said.
Raanan Gissin, spokesman for Sharon, said Barghouti had been arrested along with his cousin and aide, Ahmed Barghouti.
Israel Radio reported that the military received intelligence Barghouti was hiding out in a house in northern Ramallah and initially sent a unit of reserve soldiers.
According to the radio, Barghouti initially told the soldiers in Hebrew, "I know you've come for me" — but refused to come out of the building. The army then sent "an elite unit," and Barghouti agreed to come out without a fight, the radio said.
Barghouti, who picked up fluent Hebrew in Israeli jails, is a leading figure — some say the leader — in the Al Aqsa Brigades. The militia has claimed responsibility for dozens of shooting attacks against Israelis and — in recent months — has begun staging suicide bombings as well.
Barghouti was arrested by Israel at age 18 for membership in an armed Fatah squad, served six years in prison and was deported in 1987. In 1994, he was among the first exiles to return home, following an interim peace deal with Israel.
Barghouti was known as a supporter of the peace process, and many Israelis had been puzzled by Barghouti's transformation into one of the most radical Palestinian figures.
He had not left the Palestinian-controlled town of Ramallah for 19 months, for fear of being arrested by Israel or being killed. Since fighting broke out in September 2000, Israel has killed dozens of Palestinians accused of carrying out attacks on its civilians in "targeted killings" that the Palestinians have termed a policy of assassinations.
The Associated Press contibuted to this report.