Olmert assassination plot strains Israel-PA relations

Diskin says Fatah cell targeted PM in Jericho; some in the PA call allegations an Israeli fabrication designed to scuttle diplomatic process.

October 21, 2007 14:18
2 minute read.
Olmert assassination plot strains Israel-PA relations

fatah gunmen 224.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

Fatah operatives planned to assassinate Ehud Olmert during a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Jericho on August 6, Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin informed the cabinet on Sunday. According to Diskin's report, Israel obtained intelligence on the planned assassination attempt and transferred the details of the plot to the Palestinian Authority, whose security forces promptly arrested three of the suspects. Israel Radio quoted security officials as saying that the suspects were released two months later despite having confessed to their involvement in the plot. Information amassed by the Shin Bet showed that a number of the cell members were connected to the Palestinian security infrastructure, which afforded them details of the route the prime minister's caravan planned to take through Jericho. The cell members planned to shoot at the convoy, Israel Radio reported. "Before the prime minister went to Jericho, we received precise intelligence about a group of Fatah terrorists that intended to assassinate [him]," Diskin said. "The information was handed over immediately to the Palestinian security services, who arrested the cell members. However, they've recently been released for some reason, and we have made our objection known to the Palestinians." Some members of the group were apprehended in Jericho, and others were arrested in Israel, Diskin added. Israel Radio quoted Security officials who confirmed that two members of the cell, one of whom was arrested in June and the other in August, were still being held by the Shin Bet. The Jericho meeting was Olmert's first with Abbas on Palestinian soil after seven years, and the location was considered as significant as the content. PA officials expressed their surprise over the Israeli protest, saying it reflected a misunderstanding or different sets of standards, Israel Radio reported. According to the officials, not all of the suspects were released, and those who were not kept in custody were let go because they did not have the means to carry out their plan. The suspects were not in possession of weapons and explosives and did not admit to complicity in the plot, and keeping them in custody was "unnecessary," the officials said. Officials in Abbas's office said that the suspects were still in custody and were being questioned, Israel Radio reported. Israel also registered its displeasure with the US. In May, the Shin Bet revealed that a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip who was working for the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders was arrested for allegedly plotting to assassinate Olmert. On April 19, the Palestinian, Mazab Bashir, was arrested and confessed to having planned the assassination of a number of senior Israeli officials, including Olmert, several Knesset members and the head of Elad, a Jewish group that purchases homes from Arabs in Jerusalem's Old City. Yaakov Katz and AP contributed to this report.

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