(photo credit: Courtesy)
A Palestinian from the Gaza Strip who works for the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders has been arrested for allegedly plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) revealed on Thursday.
Mazab Bashir, 25, from the Deir el-Balah refugee camp in Gaza, began working for Doctors Without Borders five years ago and received a permit from the IDF to travel to Jerusalem for work.
On Thursday, Bashir was indicted in Jerusalem District Court.
On April 19, 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.
Bashir said he met with three Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) operatives last September, and agreed then to assassinate Olmert to avenge the deaths of Palestinian civilians.
Bashir underwent firearms and close combat training with the PFLP. He told the Shin Bet that he had collected information on the Internet about a number of MKs, but when he realized that they lived outside of Jerusalem - the only Israeli city to which his permit granted him access - he decided to ditch the plan.
According to security officials, Bashir then decided to try to assassinate Olmert. On a number of occasions he traveled to the prime minister's residence in the center of Jerusalem, but after realizing that the security surrounding Olmert was impenetrable, he decided to forgo the plan and instead kill David Be'eri, head of the Elad organization. Since the arrest, Elad has increased Be'eri's security.
In December 2006, Bashir underwent close-combat training in the Gaza Strip to learn how to break a person's neck and kill without using weapons.
A month later, Bashir again entered Israel on behalf of Doctors Without Borders, and began collecting information on Be'eri. He made additional trips to Jerusalem in February and March, and was arrested on April 19.
Duncan McLean, director of Doctors Without Borders in the region, told The Jerusalem Post that Bashir - who had been working as a translator for the organization in Gaza for nearly five years and since last October as a social worker there - had not shown any suspicious behavior.
"We are a humanitarian organization, and if we had felt he was a risk, we would not have employed him," said McLean.
All the organization's staff undergo a security check, he said, and Bashir himself had a valid permit for travel to Jerusalem. The Shin Bet decides this, McLean said.
"We are very sad for Bashir, but we want to make it very clear that we make a distinction between his professional work and what he does on his personal time. I don't think our organization can be held liable for every aspect of its staff's lives."
During the month since Bashir's arrest, McLean went to two of his hearings, but he said he had not seen Bashir on any other occasion. McLean said he never heard any statements by Bashir against Olmert and had no idea about any training he reputedly had with the PFLP.