ISRAELI police are questioning a suspected Irish bombmaker in the West Bank after arresting him over contact with Palestinian militants, Israeli security sources have said.
The man was handed over to police by Israeli intelligence agents in Mossad who had tracked his movements.
British and Irish newspapers had reported that a manhunt was under way for a former Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombmaker suspected of training Palestinian militants in the West Bank.
Israel has been on alert for attacks by foreigners acting on behalf of a 33-month-old Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since two British Muslims carried out a suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv nightclub in April, killing three people.
According to reports in Sunday newspapers, the suspect had been a member of the mainstream IRA guerrilla group, but switched allegiances to the dissident Real IRA splinter group four years ago.
Palestinian militants have largely suspended attacks against Israel as part of a truce brokered by the Palestinian leadership in order to advance a US-backed “road map” to peace.
However, some West Bank-based militant offshoots have vowed to go on fighting.
Palestinian links with Northern Ireland stretch back to the early days of the three decade conflict between Catholic republicans fighting to end British rule and Protestant loyalists committed to maintaining it.
Senior PIRA figures have trained in Palestine and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) supplied weapons, explosives, money and training to republicans during the Troubles.
Within Israel’s security services, it is believed a West Bank sniper who killed 10 Israeli soldiers and settlers in March 2002 may have been an IRA-linked mercenary.
In hardline Catholic districts of Belfast it is common to see pro-Palestinian slogans painted on walls, while in staunchly Protestant areas Israeli flags are sometimes flown alongside British flags and loyalist paramilitary banners.
In December 2012, pro-Palestinian supporters held rallies at Belfast City Hall over Israeli attacks on the West Bank.