In May of 2001 Hamas claimed al-Sharif had been killed in an Air Force strike on Jneid Prison in Nablus. The strike targeted Mahmoud Abu-Hanoud, a senior Hamas operative responsible for a number of terror attacks in Israel, resulting in the deaths of 12 Palestinian police officers.
Abu-Hanoud, who was considered a protégé of al-Sharif, escaped the strike but was killed by the IDF a year and a half later. After the bombing of the prison he met with al-Sharif's family and notified them of his death.
A year later, during Israel's 'Operation Defensive Shield', al-Sharif's family reported that he had been killed in the Israeli air strike of 2001. They constructed a mourning tent and the PA declared him a martyr.
In November the IDF received intelligence that al-Sharif was still alive and raided the family's home, demanding his surrender. The raid prompted a PA investigation, which concluded that he was indeed still alive, and frequented the home of his family.
Hamas claimed Palestinian security officials celebrated the arrest by singing and tooting horns in the streets of Nablus. The group said the celebration was "a knife in the back of the Palestinian resistance and a service to the Israelis."