The gestures will apparently take place independently of the mired diplomatic process. PA chief Abu Mazen called on Israel this afternoon to agree to a mutual ceasefire involving all the terror organizations. A newspaper in Qatar reported today that Abu Mazen agrees to Sharon's plan of establishing a temporary PA state on 42% of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and of pushing off final-status talks for a later date.
The two terrorists to be pardoned have far-ranging terrorist experience. Israel possesses a tape of Abu Shabak discussing plans for the bombing of the school bus with the mastermind of the attack, Preventative Security Service chief Mohammad Dahlan. Abu Shabak also oversaw and coordinated the preparation of the bomb used in the attack.
The attack on the school bus killed two Israeli teachers and seriously wounded three young children from the Cohen family of nearby Kfar Darom; all three children lost part of their legs.
As early as April 1997, Abu Shabak sent suicide bombers to target two school buses outside the Netzarim and Kfar Darom communities. Former IDF Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak identified the actual bombers as police officers under the direct command of Dahlan and Abu Shabak.
One month before the Kfar Darom school bus attack, a busload of 40 Israeli women and children was also attacked by terrorists near the Gush Katif junction in Gaza, just as it passed by a PA police station. Israeli intelligence concluded that Dahlan and Abu Shabak were behind that attack as well.
In addition to bus bombings, Abu Shabak has also been spotted distributing mortar shells to Gaza terrorists to be fired at Israeli towns. Israel also accuses him of being behind efforts to build a factory in Gaza to produce large amounts of nitric acid for use in explosives manufacturing.
The other official to be taken off the most-wanted list is Tawfik Tirawi, who was "directly involved in organizing attacks, providing financial aid to operatives involved in terrorist attacks and preparing them to carry out the attacks," according to government sources. Tirawi’s ties to terrorist activities have also been documented extensively and even appear on the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s web site. (More articles and original documents available here)
The pardoning of the two wanted terror chieftains comes as part of a series of unilateral Israeli good-will gestures, including a commitment to end targeted killing of terrorists and the deployment of armed PA police across Gaza. It was reported today that the PA's deployment in southern Gaza, near Gush Katif, was being held up for technical reasons; the required number of para-military policemen has apparently not yet been rounded up.
Read commentary on Abu Shabak’s pardon and other issues on Arutz-7’s new weblog, Fundamentally Freund.