30 months for Aussie citizen who aided Hamas

Palestinian-born man advised Hamas on technological matters, arrested when he tried to enter Israel.

A member of the Kassam Brigades (photo credit: REUTERS/Ismail Zaydah)
A member of the Kassam Brigades
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ismail Zaydah)
The Central District Court sentenced a Palestinian-born dual Australian-Jordanian national to 30 months in prison on Thursday, following his conviction for aiding Hamas.
The court handed down an 18-month suspended sentence. Two Arab-Israeli brothers were charged the same day with plotting terror attacks for Hamas.
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Palestinian-born Eyad Rashid Abu Arja, a 47-year-old computer engineer, was arrested at Ben-Gurion Airport in March 2011 and originally charged with belonging to an illegal terrorist organization. Abu Arja had initially claimed he was in Tel Aviv for a fourday vacation, but later agreed to plead guilty to aiding Hamas under a plea bargain.
The plea bargain, drawn up between state prosecutors and Abu Arja’s attorneys, included a deal for a 30-month prison sentence.
In agreeing to the sentence, Judge Clara Reginiano said Abu Arja was guilty of “serious security offenses” and that his punishment should act as a deterrent, but noted the important role plea bargains play in law enforcement.
According to the indictment, Abu Arja had been in contact since the mid-’80s with several individuals, among them a man named Saleh Abd al-Karim Altamoni, in connection with Palestinian-related activities in Australia and Saudi Arabia.
In 2007, Abu Arja became friendly with Hamas activist Abu Salah Nazmi, who asked him to “help Palestine” and questioned him about his knowledge of encryption techniques. Nazmi said Abu Arja would henceforth be known by the code name “Bashir” or “Bashar.”
Soon afterwards, Abu Arja met another Hamas activist who questioned him about his life and activities in Australia.
Throughout 2009 and 2010, Abu Arja was asked several times to help Altamoni locate encrypted devices, including cellphones, panoramic photography equipment and technologies to detect and guide missiles. At the same time, Abu Arja was asked to try to find an Israeli Arab who had both Israeli and Australian citizenship.
During the month of Ramadan in 2010, Abu Arja met Hamas activist Dr. Borahan in Mecca, where Abu Arja received a new code name.
In 2011, Abu Arja decided to visit Israel, and Borahan told him to attempt to enter and exit Israel using his Australian passport, and to attend a trade show in Israel in order to establish business relationships with Israeli computer companies, explore and photograph commercial centers and collect maps. However, Abu Arja was arrested upon his arrival in Israel.
Also on Thursday, two Arab-Israeli brothers from the northern village of Kafr Kana were charged at the Nazareth District Court with assisting a Hamas terror cell from the West Bank plot lethal bomb and shooting attacks on Israelis.
The brothers were arrested by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and police in December on suspicion of having been recruited by Hamas, though details of the investigation can only be released now following the lifting of a media ban.
The two men confessed during questioning that they joined a Hamas cell based in the West Bank and had planned on carrying out terrorist attacks, security forces said.
The suspects are Amir Farid Yasin Asad, 28, and Mahmad Farid Yasin Assad, 19. The 28-year-old suspect admitted to being in contact with Hamas operator Jafar Sakafi of Hebron, who was due to receive bomb-making instructions from Hamas in Gaza.
Sakafi asked Amir to help smuggle in explosive belts into Israel for a suicide bomb attack, and the latter agreed, security forces added.
Sakafi is also under arrest and has confessed to plotting bomb attacks in Israel.
Mahmad confessed to holding contacts with Hamas members in Nablus, Hebron and the Jerusalem suburbs, “as well as acting as a contact man between the terror elements,” according to the investigation.
“He agreed to help them obtain weapons for attacks, collect information on areas where soldiers gather, and to recruit other Arab Israelis,” security forces said.
Mahmad is accused of holding a meeting in his home with Wassim Natzatzra, a Hamas member from the village of Beit Furik near Nablus. The purpose of the meeting was to set up a Hamas terror cell in Israel made up of Arab Israelis, who would be tasked with assisting the Beit Furik Hamas cell carry out attacks. The younger brother is also suspected of meeting with a second Hamas operative on the Temple Mount last August, named Ma’aruf Hatatba.
Hatatba was armed with a Carl Gustav rifle, and planned to carry out a terror shooting with it, a security source said. Both Natzatzra and Hatatba are in Israeli custody and confessed to plotting terror attacks. Their statements were used to indict the two brothers.
“This case underlines the potential threat of exploiting Arab Israelis for terror plots and for acting as go-betweens for terror cells,” a security source said.